Saturday, January 29, 2011

Conditioning Seminar: Warm Ups, Cool Downs, and Stretches

I had morning lessons and only made it to the afternoon session. It was SO worth it Debbie Gross Saunders was speaking about Warm Ups, Cool Downs, and Stretches.

A lot of the information I already knew from reading books and articles. It had been overwhelming to know exactly what to do and how to condense it to a time frame that's reasonable. We were given guidelines that would be easy to follow and that I can definitely trust to be good options.

I'll be making some changes to my classes:
My agility and flyball students will be arriving 15-some minutes early and stay 15 some minutes after class. Obviously we'll talk about it this week and it'll happen the next week. This way they have time to do an appropriate warm out. Up until now, we do some walking and jogging at the beginning...if they want. And then some attention and easy behaviors to warm up. This is a good start but we definitely weren't doing enough and we should be doing some stretches. Because there are basic training classes prior to these classes, I'll be creating two walking lanes along the long wall so that students can arrive and start to do walking and jogging without interrupting the basic training students. And without having to do the walking outdoors. Come spring....well have them get into that habit! They'll do about five minutes of walking and five minutes of jogging. I'll help them learn how to do some very basic stretches and warm up activities. I'm going to be pretty strict about this for the flyball group and the advanced agility group. After classes, the same sort of thing.

Obviously after Griffin's appt, we'll be more diligent about proper preparation and cool downs too. One of the BIG things emphasized is that there is NO good reason to NOT be doing this stuff. We're doing activities with our dogs to be with them. We need to prepare them and keep them safe, not just 'fix them later.'

Crating after a warm up or before a complete cool down is a really bad idea. This will make our training group days a bit of a challenge, I need to help the others and there isn't really time for a proper cool down or warm up. But I'll be making time. Discussing my training plans or the results of the session while working with Griffin. And then maybe just some pauses in between when dogs are working.

More conditioning. More physical preparation. Early arrivals for us to classes and lessons and trials. And more gear. I really want to get one of these coats for the dogs, and esp for Blaze to wear for periods of time.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Finally a Diagnosis

Last summer Griffin was lame multiple times. We finally got a diagnosis of Lyme. We treated him. He got a lot better. But things still weren't quite right. After another episode of lameness a few weeks ago we re-checked for lyme. His values were much lower and so that was not the problem.

As his recent hip xrays had come back as excellent (yay! And normal elbows!) Our breeder had recommended consulting, as she did last summer, Debbie Gross Saunders. She's in CT, "only" 13 hours away. To our luck, she would be giving a seminar locally! She does speaking all over, does a lot of education with vet-type professionals, and creates resources and articles for dog-sport people [not all of those are hers, but many are].

We (Griffin, the breeders, and I!) begged to get a private lesson spot. The hosts had none available, we thanked them and said if that changes to PLEASE let us know. To our luck, a spot opened up!

And... we found out that Griffin has a mild psoas injury. The good news? It's mild and there's a lot we can do to help him get better. But it's something we'll have to be very careful to prevent any re-occurring problems in the future.

The psoas injuries in dogs are not uncommon, and while agility is often blamed, dogs can get even just running outside on a slippery surface. This muscle connects the rear leg to the back and can be very painful for the dogs. The injuries can be hard to diagnose as the average pet owner probably won't notice some of the minor symptoms and regular vets aren't typically able to figure out what's going on.

For two weeks we will be:
- Heat twice a day for 15 minutes. I'm really not sure how I'll do this. We have a heated dog bed that he likes. But that won't quite be in the right place.
- Hikes! We can go out off leash if the ground isn't slippery! I'm so excited! We've done a little of this because Griffin convinced me so. However, I was always hesitant we could be making it worse. We'll use moderation. Start out on leash and then do a bit of stretching before letting him go.
- Work on an exercise ball: We have a few different activities to do on here to work on his balance and strength.
- Stretches: Stretching out the rear leg and a turning-to-the-side stretch. It will take a bit of work to get him not to be distressed by the handling.
- Hill walking: Slowly up and down, only a few times a week. We'll probably do this in conjunction with our off leash walks.
- We CAN still do agility in moderation: Yay! So we'll be able to find a class! And keep working on our own too! I was really surprised this was going to be something we could do so soon.

After two weeks we'll be checking back in. Hopefully before then we'll be able to find someone near us to help adjust the exercises and monitor our progress.

Now to the Griffin part:
- His favorite part: When she asked to see him leash. He got to run around. I was not happy he wandered around so much. But he was cute running (as he always is!).
- He did NOT like the handling/manipulation/stretching demos: Obviously there was pain and he doesn't like pain. He did his adorable growling for part of it. But we were able to figure out enough of what was going on. I tried to feed him throughout but he was too stressed to eat.
- Stretching demos: Just didn't work. But luckily I had Blaze in the car and he's great for that sort of thing. I was able to learn what I needed to do without stressing out my dog more than he already had been.
- Debbie noticed a shortened stride when he ran. I can see that when it's pointed out, but I hadn't specifically noted this. I'll be watching to see how this changes over time.
- At camp last year, Megan noted that he doesn't stack perfectly. I don't remember which parts she saw were off... but today it was noted that his left rear toe points out just slightly. We'll be working to correct this and then all should be well.

His breeders had recommended Debbie very highly, but I wasn't quite sure what to expect. I'd read her (not so recent ) book a few months ago and watched her exercise ball DVD, but was a bit hesitant about some of the dog handling on there while recognizing that it can be stressful for the human and dog to be doing video and getting things done in an appointment.

It was a great experience! I'm always interested in the "people teaching" part of animal professionals, and she definitely did a -great- job with that. She was able to explain what was going on and what I needed to do without 'watering it down'. Great as professional. Great as a speaker-educator with non-vet-type professionals. It was also really cool that she knows his family and breeders and was able to comment on some of the silly little things his mom does. I'll be going to parts of the seminar this weekend and will be taking a lot of notes. I really wish I was closer and could keep taking Griffin to her.

It's just so neat/happy/exciting to keep hearing little things from different people, all over, about his family, I'm really glad to know them the little bit I do.

So now I get to join the injured-dog-club. But I don't plan on having my membership for long!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Using Platforms for Training the Directed Retrieve

Michele Pouliot has done presentations at ClickerExpo about using platforms to teach behaviors. I haven’t yet been able to go to that presentation (or to watch her new DVD on the topic), but I have been utilizing platforms in my own ways!

We warmed up with go-outs to a platform. And then I added in sending my dog from a sit to the platform.

For retriever-y activities, my understanding is that he has to turn back in the direction indicated. Or more, that it’s desirable for some specific reason. Horray! Once he was doing this well, I placed a platform off to (my) right.

We continued to use the back platform, to be sure he would not be immediately drawn to the new one. The first few responses his turns were, strategically, away from the side platform. And then we tried back-turns towards the platform. All correct!

Unsurprisingly, it was difficult for him to actually go to the side platform. I helped him out and he did better.

We did a few other games with this, I might post later, and then we worked with a directed retrieve set up.

Previously, our work with the directed retrieve had progressed to something 10-20 feet directly to our left, same distance out front, same to my right. But when we tried to decrease the angles, we had more errors than I would like.

The platforms provided a way to break down the behavior (“Go where indicated.”) without the retrieve part. I didn’t want to risk damaging our retrieve with the incorrect responses we may get.

Surprisingly, he had 5/5 correct responses. I edited enough to take out our playing and set up. I was very surprised he was doing so well!

We’ll do more sessions like this and then substitute item/s for the platforms. Or possibly on the platforms (but would that damage our platform behavior (a foot touch, he doesn’t have to sit unless cued). And hopefully it goes as well as it should in theory!

Griffin: Off Leash Class 2: Not so good

Tonight he was considerably less agitated/frenzied. He was able to focus and work. No barking. No thoughts of barking.

But he also didn't work so well. We started with some heeling, some crating (which was great until the door was closed and then he would not down), some stands while I push/touch/move and some stays. I pulled out the platforms and we tried to work on that but he wouldn't. And his session with them yesterday was brilliant. I took him outside and came back in but he still wouldn't focus. We did some petting but he was done.

What was different today? One less dog. (2 others). One less instructor. We came in after the other dogs. He had training earlier in the day at the park. But lots of rest time between the two.

So I'm not sure yet what we'll do next week. Maybe alternate crate-training-inside with crating him in the car or in the front room? I will also have my timer... I left it in the car and didn't want to disturb the other dogs (only on their second night of class ever) by going out the front door. That will help me time the crating and for our stays. I should also have a better variety of reinforcers (beef sausage, kibble, and pretzels today...) and precut them. Didn't I say that last week?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

How we did not go to an APDT trial.

Last month: "I'll go two days! I'll do two runs Saturday and one on Sunday with Griffin, and Blaze once each day."

Two weeks ago: "I missed pre entries. That's okay, we can still do day of trial entries. I'll go just one day. One run each dog."

Last week: "I'll take just dog. Blaze? Or Griffin? Maybe I'll take them both and decide when we get there and do a few test warm up minutes."

Last Wednesday after off-leash class: "Okay. Griffin isn't really ready for the environment. That's okay. Blaze has had enough training he should do well."

Last night before practice: "Great, I can't wait! He's had enough training it should go smoothly."

Last night after practice: "Wow, it's good I can count, otherwise I would think I'm missing a finger. Or two. Okay. I'm not going to take Blaze. Maybe I'll stay home."

Megan last night: "If I have to go to the trial, you have to go to a trial."
Me: "Okay. We'll see."

Me half-asleep last night: "I'll take Griffin. If we can get from the car to the ring, we should be good. Yeah. That's what I'll do."

Me this morning: "Uh no. Too cold. Not ready. Sleep in."

And so I did not go. I wish I would have. I probably should have. But maybe not. We're not quite ready in some ways. But we're over ready in others.

My compromise was to do an obedience run through tonight between lessons

Hours later I realized I didn't do heeling pace changes. And I did the stays but no video as that's completly boring. We should be ready. Eventually. We had great parts (duration of heeling) and not so great (the stays and SFE foot twitches) and smaller not so great parts (a few bumps on heeling and the completely lost piece during heeling. And my twitching.

Horray for Griffin's brother who got his OTCH today. It only took a year from CD to OTCH! We're very proud.

Training Shelter Dogs: Creating Cuddly Dogs

Many people are more likely to be drawn to the dogs that are insisting on social contact rather than the dogs doing their own thing or actively avoiding contact. We like to interact with dogs by petting them and having the dogs be near us.

Unfortunately, a lot of the dogs at our shelter were under-socialized as puppies. And so while most are comfortable with all the regular volunteers, the dogs don't actively seek out social contact even if they do recognize people as having great things. We need to get the shy dogs to enjoy being touched by the people they know well and then start to introduce new people as well.

If we had more volunteers or a stream of people coming to visit the dogs, I would start introducing other people being present or tossing treats now. But... winter. And no real indoor training space. We are working the dogs in their kennels, in outdoor play yards (brrr) or in the 3x5ish entry area.

I know I've seen several videos of this sort of thing... this is the only one I could find this morning.

To go to a very short summary: Small pet. Mark for still dog or dog moving into the hand. Feed. Repeat. Extending the duration or amount of petting when we need to increase criteria. If we are getting moving away, we go to a smaller amount of touching.

For about six months I've been working on this regularly with Griffin and he's now seeking out petting in various circumstances. Often when he's bored or really wanting to do something ( class!). He will come over and press himself against me and I do reinforce it with petting... it was a trained behavior and didn't start being offered until it had been trained.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Loopy Training: Getting a High Rate of Reinforcement

I never went to this session by Alexandra Kurland at expo.
But last spring I read this fabulous blog post has -greatly- impacted my training.

If we aren't getting a behavior immediately offered after the click, I'll break it down and use a smaller criteria piece until we're back into the 'loop'.

It's easy to get caught up in "the dog WILL offer the completed/desired behavior" and then waiting it out. And sometimes that's appropriate. But that often can lead to a very poor rate of reinforcement. And probably less overall fluency than we think we have.

More efficient training. More repetitions. Faster progress. And it gives students a way of measuring 'success' other than counting numbers/percentages of correct responses.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Griffin: Off Leash Class

First night of "Off Leash Transition" class tonight. For once, a class I'm not teaching! The sad part is I wish all of my dogs could be in the class.

There were three other dogs in the class, a young very large breed and two excited herding mixes. And Griffin. As the dog with the most training, Griffin was in the middle of the line up. And very excitable.

- Recalls: We did recalls on the longline, I was VERY surprised that Griffin was immediately and 100% focused on coming to me. With the other dogs being interested and some vocalizing... I thought he would be more tempted to visit. Horray!
- Sits at a Distance: He's done a lot of this with field training, but...due to the excitement of the room, I only went about 10-15' away. He was sitting on cue. it was adorable.
- Walking with Me: (Sorta off leash nice leash walking) We did the demo for the class. He was cute. He was tempted to watch the other dogs. But he kept going!
- Collar Holds: He was really good with this. But I suppose he's never been one to duck away...he's almost tempted to stay out of 'reach range' if he wants something, but I think I'm imagining that. As I don't go for him if I don't think he'll come.

There was some barking, esp when we entered. He didn't eat immediately. He was able to do some other things (dumbbell work behind barriers), some stays, some sits out of motion. We did a lot of really nice heeling with really nice duration. We did some tugging and playing with toys.

But he could barely contain himself. We used a lot of food: 3/4 a block of cheese. A handful of mustard pretzels. Half a handful of peanut butter pretzels. A cup of kibble. And a few misc. treats. THAT said, I was careful with EVERY piece of reinforcement. He worked for every single little crumb.

Next week, we'll have crate near our station and do more crating/stays/settles and shorter spurts of working. I'll have him in the building before the other dogs come in, so that we don't have to walk so far to get to our station. I'll have a greater variety of reinforcers and cut into smaller pieces. We also need to go back to our Adventure Walks and out in public work. I'll give him closer to 100%. I got a bit distracted watching how the others were doing and being tempted to jump in and help teach!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Scent Article Part II

We have training friends who have a lot of experience training dogs for scent work. And so we asked about Griffin's inability to find metal. Griffin will not find a hidden metal item unless he happens upon it by luck, but he'll easily find a wood, plastic, or cloth item in the same location. It seemed to me that he really couldn't smell it.

that said, dogs have amazing noses. Surely skin cells would get caught in the ridges of the canning lids? And he really had to be able to smell it somehow.

But after trying a few things, including the set up they use for scent work (scent in a jar in a cement block... with some specific set ups and handling). And he accidently smelled at the right one. Click! Feed in position. And shortly he started to paw at/try to retrieve. But not just to the 'right' one. He did it to both. We didn't notice different postures at either block.

So we concluded that it's really not a hugely powerful scent. That it's such a small amount and something that dogs are exposed to every day. And that it's just a really difficult exercise/concept for any dog.

The recommended progression was to get a peg board and tie down wood articles (clean) and tie down one scented. Reinforce for accidental and intentional indications to the 'right' one. Remove and replace the scented article to different areas. And continue to reinforce for nose touches/teeth on the correct item.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Training Shelter Dogs: Selecting Behaviors

Ideally, all the dogs would perfectly learn all basic manners, all husbandry, and additional tricks.

But, I'm the only one that does training, I'm only there for one shift, about two hours, per week. With about 20 dogs in the 'big dog kennel', and with cleaning having to get done... I don't always do as much training as I want.

For each dog, I have 2-3 behaviors we are working on, and though I don't have to actually sit down and carefully plan what those are, there is a strategy.

Dog 1: 8-9 year old beagleX, been at the shelter for many years. Mobility issues. Interested in people she knows. A little barky. Not so great for handling.
- Due to her weight, it would be good if we could get her more exercise, but she has some health issues limiting how much she can safely walk. Stationary behaviors are a better idea. Obviously the handling needs to be addressed, and it would be nice if she wasn't demand barking. If we could get her more social with strangers, she would have an increased (just very very slightly) chance of getting adopted.
- What we're working on: Barking on cue. And not barking off of cue (on cue is better than the being quiet). Nail trims ( I can clip 1-2 nails now!). Targeting (is touching, but not moving to touch).

Dog 2: 3-5 year old lab/pointery type cross. Barky. Figity. Sometimes jumps on people. Not super social with people or dogs, yet attention seeking with humans he knows. He is a higher energy dog, but I want to encourage calmer behaviors than what he does now.
- What we're working on: Stays. This started with clicking sits that had "feet still" instead of moving. His front feet will move a lot if I'm not careful. Placement of reinforcer was slightly off to one side to keep his foot still rather than the left foot lifting while he ate.
- We also are VERY careful with management. When dogs are going to be moved past his kennel, he is locked outside part of his inside-outside kennel. This prevents potential barking, fence fighting, or spinning.

Dog 3: A year old pit bully type dog. Of the very cutest type. She's been here for several months, is really laid back (she would be SUCH an easy dog to live with!), and completely adorable.
- What we're working on: Nose targets (for recalls, greetings, etc), Recalls ('cause we might as well), and walking.
- I'm not sure why she hasn't been adopted. She's the cutest pit bully type dog, round and squishy and brindley. Easy to handle. I'm hoping that additional training will make her more adoptable, but also maintain her calmness and prevent her from getting too wild.

And the list goes on for the rest of the dogs.
My priority in selecting behaviors is for things that are immediately impacting the dog (things that may prevent other volunteers from exercising or playing with the dog or being able to move the dog to and from his kennel), second is things that are annoying (jumping, barking, spinning, fence fighting, not coming), and third priority is the behaviors that make the dog more adoptable (basic training, tricks).

I'm never sure if the tricks/manners should be first priority or not, but because so many of the animals are at the facility long-term, the other volunteers really need to be able to safely and happily handle the animals.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Being a Better Dog Trainer: Part II

I always come home from training with more questions than I took. Today we had a private and I stayed to watch puppy class. And afterwards, we talked about all the classes and how we can do an even better job.

But it comes down to a long list of questions.
- How much do we compromise (or not) "Good training practices" for the sake of immediate progress/short term results?
- What skills do pet dogs really need?
- How do we become better at motivating our human students?
- How do we handle students who want behavior change, love their dogs, and NEED change, yet still do not follow very very simple recommendations? How do we improve their motivation to comply?
- Why do some students progress so much more rapidly than others?
- What makes some teams so successful?
- How do we get all teams to see that much success?
- What really IS the best puppy class? The best basic class?

And that's just a partial list. I didn't take notes at the time, but what I've come up with is much longer.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Being a Better Dog Trainer

For a while now, it keeps coming up... what's the difference between what Kathy Sdao, Ken Ramirez, Morton & Cecilie, (etc..!) are doing...and the rest of us?

How do we become brilliant at training dogs and teaching people?

I have a lot of the same knowledge for the most part... but how do I use it effectively, and learn to be as efficient as possible?

As I tell Megan too often... "I feel so incompetent! I know I'm not. But it seems like it!"

Monday, January 10, 2011

Looking at Heeling: Pace changes

At the obedience seminar last weekend we had a whole afternoon on heeling. The really interesting part, is that while I can also talk about heeling for hours, I would have set up completely different activities!

Some of the activities in that part of the workshop were teaching the dog to circle to the left, the dog to do leg weaves, the handler reinforcing the dog as he moves into position, pivot box, and exaggerating shoulder cues when weaving.

The only one of those that I frequently use (and use a TON) is the pivot box exercise. I absolutely love this and see it as the key for solving almost all heeling problems, as well as left finishes.

My second mainstay for heeling is pace changes. Obviously in competition obedience and in rally that corresponds to pace change exercises, but it's also relevant on all turns, serpentines, figure 8, etc. My understanding is that a dog who is lagging or forging on turns (1) Doesn't understand heel position well enough, and the pivot box can improve that and-or (2) the dog doesn't understand about matching the handler's pace.*

We always pick one pace change to do multiple times (normal TO fast or slow TO normal or Normal to Slow or fast to normal) and click as soon as the dog indicates he is matching the handler's pace. Everyone wants to look for duration, but we really want to reinforce the dog for 'matching' at this early stage.

We only work on that one pace change at a time, but after a short break, we can work on a different one. When the dogs have had sufficient practice, we go to working on serpentines and every time the handler crosses the serpentine and the dog moves to match, we click and feed.

The third exercise we do is for the handlers. Typically we run this without dogs and then put the dogs back in. We use various tag points to get a good 'picture' with the handler. We look at where the person is looking (straight, ahead, a number of feet in front), for specific leash holds, shoulders over hips, steady pace, small steps before halts... And there are sets of tag points used for each of these as needed.

It was great to see how others saw the "smallest pieces" of behaviors and to re-look at how I teach competitions behaviors. It's always a challenge to look at the best, fastest, most clear, and most efficient pieces and note any changes based on different dogs and owners and their learning styles.

*And of course that's all in theory...dogs like to give us challenges and there are exceptions to the rule and other pieces we add or work on

Heeling is great!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Book 10: Retriever Trouble-shooting

My adorable retriever! Notice the loose leash

This is another of the too-many books I picked up at the used book store. I do want to say that the last three times I've gone, I walked out without purchasing anything!

Retriever Trouble-shooting by John and Amy Dahl is meant to be a guide, as the title suggests, for all sorts of problems that field dogs may have.

Almost all of the suggestions were to go back to foundation training and use the appropriate punishment required through the foundation training. I completely agree that almost all competition problem behaviors are fixed through repairing and instilling a good foundation. And so, reading the book, it almost seemed like it would be more helpful to just add a bit more to their foundation book (10 Minute Retriever) and a page at the end that lists potential problems and the appropriate chapters. Or just a forward page, saying that a good foundation will solve most of your problems.

The part of the book that I appreciated was the chapter on aggression. The authors did give some punishment recommendations, but also commented that it is very worthwhile to contact a positive reinforcement behavior specialist and that many of these aggressive dogs could do well in other settings and with R+ training. HORRAY for referring readers to appropriate resources.

Would I recommend this book? Not really, a good foundation training book would be more useful for anyone.
Who would find this useful? Someone who uses P+ in training and doesn't believe me (and others!) to just read a good beginning/foundation book.
My favorite part? Besides the nice comments they made about R+ training, I liked the 'real world' examples at the end of each chapter. I wish it was more detailed, but, it did provide a way to see the training in action.
Least favorite part? Besides all the P+ applications, I didn't like how over-simplified parts were. Maybe the audience should have read lots and lots of foundation/beginner resources first... but it also seems like parts could be applied incorrectly if someone doesn't understand what it means to gradually add distance or exactly what behaviors to be looking for. This HAS made me more careful when I'm teaching classes. Some instructors tend to talk too much, I probably say too little. I'm adding in a bit more explanation, reasoning, and examples now.
What did I learn? Don't underestimate the importance of a good foundation, no matter what you are training!
Will I read this book again? Probably not. Which means I should probably find a new home for it.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Obedience Seminar

First seminar for me this year! Deb Jones and Judy Keller came to talk, with the first half of the day was about focus and basic training/foundation behaviors and the second half was activities pertaining to heeling.

I didn't know if I would be able to go until very recently, so I had not registered for a working spot and that was a good choice. While I would have liked to work Griffin in that setting, I don't know that the activities would have specifically helped us and we would have had to sit out on a few.

That said, I had a great time and got to see a lot of people I don't spend enough time with. It was a probably a record number of dogs in the building (12 working, and probably 8+ others) and the first working seminar that's been held at the facility. We also had a few requests from attendees for a freestyle workshop/class and I'm really hoping we'll be able to do that.

And as usual for any training day or lesson or workshop or seminar or event, I came home with too many notes, a list of questions and skills to add to our training skill/concept/behavior lists. I'm feeling really good about my dogs, my classes, my students, and my training plans.

There is a lot I need to process and think over, as well as discuss with training friends.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Lyme Again?

Griffin did his I-have-Lyme limp last night at training. So no more running wild, no more agility, and no more ferocious tugging until we get tested again and find out what is going on.

So, maybe it hasn't been our training-group-every-day that has resulted in improvements...maybe he's just been in pain.

This dog needs a home. She's a blind senior, but LOVES food, SUPER friendly, and just a really great low maintenance dog. Other than combing! I wish I could take her home.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Scent Article Variations

Griffin seems like he can't find his metal articles. If I hide one in the room, he goes past it a million times and then finds it by luck. If it was a sock, or paper, or my phone, he will ind it much, much faster.

We were given a few suggestions:

- "Hot scent" the article, rub it until it is hot. And then hide it. I am using canning rings. I thought this was a bit extreme and that a bunch of skin cells would get stuck in the ridges. But no change.
- Use a different type of metal. Like soup cans. I didn't have any that were empty. So I used full ones. He readily retrieved them but still has trouble finding them.
- Maybe he doesn't like metal. But he would pick up the metal rings, other metal rings, screws, light metal tools, coins, keys... Not his favorite thing, but he'll offer the behavior.
- Spread the articles out more ...but he's still struggling when it's one hidden in the room!
- Put food in the pile of articles so he goes directly there. He always goes right to the pile.... he just can't find the right one!

I don't get why he's struggling. Most people underestimate dog scenting abilities. Maybe I over estimate his.

I had a recent updated about this puppy, he is now a year old and is doing search and rescue training!

Story time from flyball last night: Griffin was WILD and very growly-tuggy-ferocious! But he was soon very tired. I sent him down the jumps to the tunnel (in place of a box)...and he missed the entry...started whinning while looking for something to do...and then turned and came back. "I can't find it!!"

Saturday, January 1, 2011

CCA and Visiting an Agility Trial

Griffin and I visited an AKC trial today and saw more people than we expected to! We saw lots of golden retriever people we know, lots of people we know from training and class, and some of his family!

We were able to talk about the Certificate of Conformation Assessment (CCA, which is given by the Golden Retriever Club of America. The test is designed to compare dogs to the standard, not to compete against each other like in conformation. A dog has to get three scores of 75+ (out of 100) from three judges. It seems like most tests have three evaluators presents, so often dogs are able to complete the CCA at one event.

It looks like Griffin and I will try to get into a spring test, and should supposedly do quite well. He'll need a good bath and grooming (it's not really definitely important!) and more practice with standing and being touched and gaiting. I have a feeling that the waiting-for-our-turn part will be the hardest.

Back to the trial, Griffin did way better than I expected, he worked with me for a while, asked nicely to go outside, was seeking out doors (one didn't have a handle, it was a door and a door frame... and half hidden behind a vending machine, the door frame must have cued him it was a door!), he didn't jump on some people, he walked past a lot of dogs. He watched dogs do agility. And he only barked a little.

The hardest part was seeing dogs nearby tugging or if they asked him to play. We did a little tugging inside, but there were also several moments where he would not tug and a few moments where he refused to work (...but his response was to move away and lie down in a relaxed down while watching me... so it was a very nice way to refuse!).

If we do the CCA test, we will not go covered in mud and/or cow poop.

So today was a success in a lot of ways...the trial environment is very manageable, artificial turf is FABULOUS, and after too many years in agility, I finally made it to an AKC trial. It looked just like all the other trials I've been to, agility almost all looks the same to me!

We need more tugging, more working in new places and way more training.