Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Agility class 1.5

Another great class this week. So happy with my little guy! We arrived early and I walked him around, doing circle work with frequent breaks to go sniff the equipment (which he's been dying to do since week one). This was the Give Me a Break structure from Control Unleashed. When the other dogs started coming in, he got happy wiggly tail as he watched them; none of the stiff body language from the first couple of weeks. He was particularly interested in a female English Bulldog who's been wearing panties for the past couple of weeks (gee, wonder why he's interested in her...), and a big chocolate Standard Poodle.

Warmed up with IYC stand-stay. Next week we're having an "It's Yer Choice throw-down", in which the last dog still staying wins, with a second prize being given to the owner who gets the most "style points" (in other words, can do the most interesting/entertaining stuff while their dog holds the stay). We're not going to win. :) But Cai is making good progress. We're battling foot movement, especially if he gets distracted by the other dogs, and then forgets what he's doing and reorients to me. I can toss treats and toys toward him, and do things like spin in a circle, jump up and click my heels, or get down on all fours like we're playing. It's the other dogs that make him lose his head.

The instructor explained the rear cross and had us continue the stays, working on going behind the dog. Cai sometimes moves his front feet when he whips his head around too quickly

We've been encouraging our dogs to pick up a toy, and then putting our hands on it and trading it for a treat, to build value for the dogs' putting their toys in our hands. Chimera is a big resource guarder, so I had to do this carefully, but I'm now able to take the toy right from him if he knows that I have food on me and he's in training mode. Getting him to willingly put a toy in my hand is another story -- but I'm working on that by shaping a retrieve and doing fetch training (throw a toy down the hallway, stand in his natural path back to the living room, and trade him when he gets to me).

For a couple of weeks we've been trying to build the dog's drive forward when taken by the collar, by dropping a toy in front of him and then letting him go to run to it. Cai just meanders to the toy, even when I tease him with it, even if I pry it out of his mouth during tug and immediately release him to it, even when it's his highest value toy (bunny fur tug). I mentioned to the instructor that he'll run if I toss these ball-shaped chicken and rice treats, so she suggested that I use food in a sock as his drive-builder instead. She wants us to put the food into some sort of pouch so that it's an item we can throw. I didn't try this initially because I knew that he would run off with the pouch and guard it, but I'll try it now that he is better about trading.

(If we never get the collar/drive forward thing down, we'll still be okay. Dragon learned agility without it, and I can already use my hand and arm forward to send Chimera to obstacles/objects.)

Did circle work, on our side of the classroom while everyone else went in a big circle together. Outside turns which face Cai toward other dogs are the hardest part of circle work, and we practiced this a lot, starting far away at first and slowly getting closer. I was VERY pleased with how much he progressed during these five minutes. If he did stop to watch them, I backed away and used a little bit of leash pressure if needed to call him back to earth. I felt comfortable with this because I could see that he had much more relaxed body language compared to previous weeks, and he was quick to reengage and go back to work. During previous weeks, I would let him watch the other dogs, because he was more worried about his surroundings. Of course, as much as possible I tried to work at a distance and angle at which he could be successful. A few times he disengaged to sniff the floor, and my reaction was to shorten the leash so that he couldn't wander, but to let him sniff until he was done. He didn't react to his name in these moments, and if I tried to pull him away I knew he'd get stressed. He may have been stress-sniffing in the first place. When he's fully engaged in heeling, he doesn't notice smells on the floor or other dogs moving around him.

Then everyone practiced outside turns, a quarter turn at a time. Cai did this okay last week, but this week he kept going forward and turning his butt out to face me. I'll practice this with Denise Fenzi's pocket hand to help him be successful. I don't think this is that important for agility, but it's similar to doing the pivots in rally, so we might as well. The instructor seemed to teach this as part of getting the dog to line up, but I get my dogs to line up with inside pivots.

Finally, we finished up class with restrained recalls, one at a time. We would call the dog, run forward, front cross as they ran up to us, then pull 180 degrees. Cai ran toward me super quickly and did the turns perfectly, no losing focus on the outside turn. Yay!


  1. Yeah, I wouldn't push the collar/forward drive thing too hard... Elli hates that. I'm not in the mood to do any CCing for it either, so I use my voice to rev her up and it works just fine. I would imagine that the context (over time) would create a desire to drive forward: agility obstacles=drive. Weeee!

    I'm with you on the IYC stays. Other stranger dogs are Elli's biggest downfall, too.

    1. Thanks! For me, it was worth it to CC taking him by the collar. I tried putting liver in a sock this morning and he was more drivey, so perhaps it'll work out after all. If not, no sweat.

  2. Oh, other dogs. Those are Albee's kryptonite, too. The biggest distraction. I remember the first time he did a restrained recall in a classroom with other dogs (all stationary, on the sides of the room) and came straight to me instead of trying to visit the other dogs. I almost cried with joy.

    I've been doing a little pocket hand work with Albee, but it's hard for me to figure out the right hand position. I've also been shaping him for putting his nose in the pocket, since most of his high-value reinforcers are gloopy and hard to pinch between my finger and thumb (ground raw food, banana). Must get some solid high-value treats and try with that.

    1. I can imagine that feeling. :)

      How about chopped, frozen banana?

      I was able to practice the pocket hand in person with Denise. :) Can you have Toby watch you and give feedback on whether Albee is in position or too far forward/back?