Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Agility 3.5 summary

Only three people (including myself) were in class today. Usually there are five. We did a number of drills one at a time, all of us observing the person practicing. We worked on sequencing 2-3 obstacles.

One was jump, front cross, jump, decel. Next was jump, pull, backside of jump. Then we switched to a tunnel and two parallel jumps, first doing a 180 pull and then a serpentine. Finally, we did tunnel, jump, tunnel and then tunnel, jump, decel to work on cue discrimination.

I am proud to say that Cai aced almost all the exercises, mostly because we've been practicing similar sequences during the past week and he recognized them. He had a little trouble with sending into a tunnel, and would stop and come back out when he saw me not running in the same direction as him. Later he had a lot of trouble when the new tunnel we added  was under the (gated off) a-frame, and he couldn't handle that much lateral distance and me having to go around the gates. If the instructor held him and I moved out laterally and ran forward quickly, then he would go in. So we need to continue practicing lateral distance. I also need to work on being able to quickly turn around/change direction and set a new line without getting disoriented. I'm better at it when I've set my own practice courses. Doing someone else's exercises is more challenging.

In two weeks we'll start weave poles and the instructor will be using 2x2s! I'm a big fan and used the method to start teaching Dragon the poles. He was amazing at finding the correct entry with 2 poles thanks to that. We were working on closing up the second pair before he died. I will try to build at least one pair of poles soonish, so that we can practice. I also need to do more work on teaching Cai to quickly lie down on a rectangular cut of yoga mat, which I plan to use for a modified running contact. Right now he'll lie down on it, but he doesn't do it as quickly as I would like. I need to build up the reinforcement history more. I want him to be reliable on both contacts and weaves!!

Speaking of practicing outside of class, I am stoked that the kennel I'm now teaching classes at allows me to use their yard to practice agility, and I can store my tiny-sized equipment there. Before April, there were a few months when I did not have anywhere to practice other than my apartment, since Cai is too reactive to practice off leash at a park. That's why we're having so mug trouble with lateral distance. We're making way more progress now.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Agility 3.4 summary

Instead of warming up with boring circle work in a circle, we went right into taking turns with a sequence: tunnel, front cross, jump (which was at an angle), pull into tunnel, decel at next jump. Chimera consistently had a problem with running right to my side after the tunnel, and then squeezing between me and the jump stanchion even if I left very little room. So we need to work more lateral distance, especially in sequences, and running to a toy thrown ahead in sequences. Good info! My apartment, where I've done most of Cai's foundation training, doesn't have room to do lateral distance drills. Between that and a huge history of reinforcement for being at my side, it's no wonder he had trouble.

Cai is starting to jump on me in frustration if he is confused during jump drills, especially if we repeat something multiple times and can't get it right. Since this is just a side effect of mistakes in training (both his and mine), I'm ignoring it for now. If the behavior starts to escalate, I'll work on redirecting him.

After this we did a simple lateral distance exercise (stay, lead out, toss reward as dog goes over jump), and he did pretty well. The instructor said our goal is to being 18 feet away and able to cue the jump. I was about 3-4 feet away. Practice practice!

We set up another sequence, with a tunnel and then two jumps in a 180. At first we did a push through/back side of jump with just the second jump, then we added the first one in, and then we moved them just a little bit apart laterally. If the dog did well with that, we did the jumps as a serpentine as well. Chimera did this perfectly, even when my timing or balance was a bit off. We practiced it a bunch at home and at the play yard in Dublin during the past week.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Weekend in Tahoe

We spent the weekend with my parents and sister at their place by Lake Tahoe. Chimera has been enjoying it muchly. Everyone has taken turns playing with him, and he's gotten an hour plus long off leash hike both days. I also had time to do more training with him than I've had in a long time: heeling, stand for exam, dumbbell retrieve, retrieve over jump, stays, backing up, circling around me backwards, and one jump work: sends, push throughs, and serpentine. So fun!!

He also spent a lot of time barking at noises outside and on TV, and at the vacuum cleaner. Less fun.

Also, carrying around his chewies, looking for the perfect spot to "hide" them, leaving them, and after a few minutes retrieving them and starting over again.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

A startling conclusion

Chimera has been sleeping more lately, and on Sunday he slept nearly all day. I was worried that he was sick, but he had a good appetite, and on Monday he was his normal self in the morning... Until we got back from our afternoon hike, and he slept for three hours again. And then I came to the startling conclusion that I'm actually meeting his physical and mental needs, and his crazy puppy energy is calming down. Whoa! Is the monster really growing up?

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Playtime, reactivity, and developmental update.

Yesterday I took Chimera with me to the Puppy Playtime I host in Dublin. He's not a puppy anymore, but it seemed like he would get along well with the puppies who were there. He was a hit. He LOVES running as fast as he can, and getting chased by the other dogs (so long as they're not catching up and nipping him).

The Small Dog Playtime followed the puppies, and one dog came. It was a seven month old that had not been around other dogs since the family brought him home from the breeder's. Cai did so well. (Thank goodness he'd just been playing and running and had gotten most of his energy out!) The other dog was excited to see him, but didn't know how to interact normally. He just barked and barked and bounced forwards and backwards. I rewarded Cai for looking at me, and he quickly stopped paying attention to the "weird" dog and did LAT, some fronts, and heeling on both sides. I was very proud of how calm he was!! After forty-five minutes, the other dog was slightly calmer and braver, but it'll be a long road for him to gain social skills.

This morning we went on a trail hike, and encountered three dogs. Again I was proud of my little guy! He was still immediately reactive when he saw them, but I was able to redirect him 80% of the time, and he ate treats. I'm always happy when he eats treats while outside, especially in the presence of new dogs, because his interest in food fell dramatically at the same time that his reactivity started. We are making progress!

In the afternoon I put him in his crate and left for six and a half hours, the longest I've ever left him. He was happy to see me when I returned, but it was the same level of excitement as when I've been gone for just one hour. After greeting me, he settled down to chew on a bully stick. Even though he's with me nearly all the time, he's able to handle staying home in his crate so well. That had been a worry of mine! He didn't pee the first time I made him go outside, and waited for a second trip. So his bladder control is quite good. We're still working on poops, though.

He bounced around and play-attacked the cat, but settled right back to sleep when I put him back in his crate less than an hour after getting home. What a good dog! He is nine months old now.