Friday, April 30, 2010

The Biggest Dog Training Class Mistake

Plan: Go to the bank. Go to the school. Work my dogs for 20 minutes. Teach 4-H for an hour and a half. Work my dog during that time if we had less than 3 kids (...and our second instructor). Run to the store to make some purchases for 4-H camp.

What happened: No parking at the bank. Went to the school. Had 30 minutes until practice. Realized I brought 0 treats. Read a book (old Breland and Breland book on animal behavior). Only a few kids show up. I get to work my dog.

I dug through my car....and found enough treats for the 90 minutes. And for a clicker trainer, that's a lot of treats. I found a bag of what was granola bar and was now crumbs. I found the very last crumbs of flavored pita chips. I found a half bag of plain pita chips. I was sure I did throw those away in a fit of cleaning...but thankfully they were still in my glove box!

I'm not sure if it's a good thing or a bad thing I had that many 'treats' in my car.

Griffin did well. We got to do long stays 3' from another dog. He had 0 interest in her, only "broke" twice, both times towards me. And it's "Broke" as we're still doing offered stays. He did some great fronts with the dumbbells, holding it completely still. And lots of focus while I went around and helped the two kids I was working with. He's so focused! And cute!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Contact Training Again

Yay, 12/12 correct responses on the dogwalk tonight. I did not get a video, which is sad, some of them could have been 'jumping' body posture even though he was very much in the yellow. But I'm happy! We had up to 10' lateral distance too. That's not a lot, but it's a great start. He was running the whole thing, but probably will have less strides as we work more.

We'll have a few more weeks with heavy focus on the contacts, then we'll do weaves and be much closer to trialing.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Training and Lack Of

We've had a golden puppy staying with us for some training and socialization. He's been here a week and wow it's gone fast! I'm amazed at how little "training" we've done. Only today has he begun to have actual offered intentional behaviors. But at the same time, a week ago, he'd never been anywhere (ever!) and had little experience in the world. Now he's been out in public, met lots of people, and animals. He's been on various surfaces and smelled different things. He's been far away from me and he's run back to me. He's been through water and played with toys. And all those things are just as important as training.

Griffin had a really great training session tonight. We played with kitchen send outs, using something different than our usual foot targets (...set out a phone book and he insisted on retrieving it!). I used "Aim For It" (from _Agility Right from the Start_). And within 5 reps he was heading straight across the room, very measurable with the tile lines on the floor. We'll see how well it transfers to other locations, but it did increase my confidence in the straightness of his send outs.

Tugging with Griffin has magically got better with a puppy around. His tugging has improved 100%. He's tugging and holding on without thinking about regripping. He's happy to continue to hold on and not let go in his appeasement-conflicty way. His 'Out' is beginning to be a little lacking but for him, that's a great thing. He and Blaze had a bit of the standoff yesterday, both gripping the fun soft frisbee. Blaze always ended up with it. But they would stand for minutes, both holding it, leaning back, and Not. Letting. Go.

Lessons this week for Griffin will focus on more tugging, more contact work, and his obedience stays (duration). The puppy will be learning about more self control foundation exercises, attempt to get offered downs, object interactions, and further explorations of the world.

Friday, April 23, 2010

After the lesson

4 months is way too long to go between formal lessons!

None of the activities were new to us, most of it is stuff we've practiced at home or that I've done 5,000 with Luna.

Griffin was...interesting. He was either very focused or very not. There was less "not focused" than last time. But no real pattern to it.

When he was working well, it was fun though he wasn't as fast as he was at home. Maybe a hike the morning before a lesson isn't a good idea for him.

He's not committing as early as he does at home or PosiDog, but we were also working in much tighter sequences than we normally do.

We'll be adding the set of exercises we did today into our home training and hopefully when we go back (2 weeks? Maybe?!) we'll be able to do better on those and add more to his repertoire.

I really need to get on his contact training and weave training. We attempted six poles and he went wide to skip #2. We did go back to 2 and then 4 poles, other than two early errors and one later, he had very good responses and was offering weaving. It was especially interesting as I really don't think we've done any since August.

Releases from stays could also be well as my ability to get to front cross positions in time.

Karin has me learning to run and we'll see what changes that makes.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Agility Training

Griffin's favorite things at PosiDog were (in approximate order) the water, the back door, and the people. Those things were huge distractions for training. Back door was fixed easily (and in 2 sessions!) with Premack. He does behaviors, we run to the door and go outside. Horray! Water...I just keep picked up or let him drink. And people...he's allowed to love them and generally leaves them alone fairly quickly.

On Tuesday night after agility class we did a training session with the equipment set up. He was great! He went to the back door 0 times. The water bowl 7 times (...only one time for each bowl...) and little/no interest in people coming in and out of the room. He was staying when asked, he had an auto down on the table (...who trained that?) about 85% of the time. He was fast and working ahead of me and really running.

He knocked one bar when he wrapped a jump tightly and hit the standard. He had never done that before and I don't expect it to become an issue. I wasn't able to get ahead of him for front crosses. That should improve with Karin teaching me to be faster, us working on our stays/lead outs for greater than the 30'ish we have, and me being a little less frenzied.

Blaze is/was fast and probably more 'intense' than Griffin, but I think Griffin has a larger stride and is (or will) ultimately be faster. Plus, I'm not much more worried about giving cues in a timely manner for creating the best lines possible.

We're still lacking in the contact behavior and weave pole areas... I'm almost tempted to go wtih our fake 2o2o so we can be trialing sooner... but I should probably just work more with equipment and do more running contact training.

Tomorrow Karin and I are doing a private lesson with an instructor...we haven't done this since December. Griffin was a bit...distracted... that day. Theoretically he'll do better this time.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Canine Good Citizens

On Saturday I did about 20 CGC tests at the Ohio 4-H Dog Expo event. The kids get to come learn about obedience/showmanship/rally/agility etc. PosiDog was kind and loving and let us use the agility equipment. One of our camper-parents came to help give the test (she did about 15 of them too) and her daughter and dog also helped for the "neutral dog" portion. We had three other campers in attendance. Our campers are the best!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Bird Dog

Over the weekend we had a quick trip to help transport a dog. We also got to watch an afternoon of field training and work Griffin a bit.

Horray Griffin, he retrieved a bird for the first time!

We had a really great time. It's always great to see dogs doing what they were bred to do.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Vet Trip

For the first time ever, I scheduled all the dogs for a vet visit on the same day. In the past, something or another came up and they all had staggered appointment times due to a bump being looked at or a blood test run.

But, everyone has been healthy so we took a group trip. That being said, I only took one dog in at a time. This allowed me to focus on the dog, reinforce appropriate responses and have clear directions on what should be done. My dogs are not trained enough I could get them to each stay on their mats in the vets office while the other is being worked on, and I don't want one standing around without specific direction.

We used lots of slimy cheese and egg pieces. Griffin's restraint practice paid off and there were several moments where he was "offering" to be restrained. Luna did better up on the table than on the floor, scary people don't lean over the top of you if you're already up high. I was allowed to restrain her for blood draws and her rabies vaccination, which was probably much better for her than having a stranger restrain her. Blaze was Blaze. He's great, we muzzle him, and he only scared the vet when he was tossed treats...despite being 3' apart, the vet sure moved his hand back quickly when Blaze jumped up to catch the treat!

Horray for the event being over. Gryff will need to go back in July for his OFA xrays, and hopefully we'll avoid all other trips until next spring.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

"Velcro" Dogs

This piece of vocabulary has been interesting to me for a very, very long time.

First off... "Velcro" is a brand name.... not really a reference to the product that is more officially, but relatively unknown, as 'hook and loop tape'. But 'hook and loop tape' doesn't have the same feel. I think if I started saying "HALT dogs" it would not go over well.

So, are these dogs-who-stick-to-people a good thing or bad thing? It depends on the person and their goals. If you're talking to novice dog sports people, if their dog runs off, they wish desperately for a 'sticky dog'. If their dog has no distance, they desperately don't want a 'sticky dog'.

I have a sneaking suspicion that there's some level of anxiety in dogs that stick with people without considerable training. And some of these dogs have also got into trouble for running off in early training.

Our solutions consist of training. We need to teach our dogs to be responsive, comfortable, and work at a distance.

Lately I've been thinking about the very impressive field tests (trials? etc?) that retrievers do. HUGE distances! Hundreds of yards away! I can come up training plans for almost anything. But I didn't have a solid plan for how to get that. Griff isn't really a "HALT dog", but I didn't think I could get him to do that.

And then, we go for a woods walk. And he runs, hundreds of yards off. He tends to stay within sight, and stays closer when I'm moving slower. But, given the chance, he will happily be exploring a hundred yards out.

The training process we use won't have to be impossible. Distance is in his natural repertoire. He's comfortable away. And just needs trained.

Obedience go outs aren't going to be a problem, he's at 10-15 feet now. Agility, he has not really been trained for distance but 15-20 feet is rather doable provided there is little motion from me. This training has gone easier than with Luna, who is happy to run off, but when working had to have slow, gradual, almost painful (for me!) distance training. Blaze was a lot like Griffin with distance training, only needing a little more work, probably due to my novice-ness at that point.

In the _Agility Right from the Start_ book there's a process called "Aim for It" for working with obstacles and items...taking into account the beginning/middle/end of the training period, and utilizing placement of reinforcement very effectively. We're using this for go-to-mat behaviors in class. And for agility class training and it's going better than expected.

Not much of a beginning, middle, or end to the post... I tried!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Wood Walks

Reason #1 I don't train my dogs as much as I should:

We have such a good time. Griffin will run and run (and run). Then swim and roll in things and fetch sticks or balls or bumpers and smell all sorts of great stuff. It's so much fun to have a dog that will stick right with me (...other than the one time), will come back when called, and loves all of this.

Luna got brave and went right in the water up to her stomach. We'll get her swimming this year!