Friday, August 9, 2013

Obedience progress

We don't practice our obedience skills as much as our agility skills, other than little heeling doodles and fronts. Mostly that's because I'm in agility class every week, while I don't have something helping motivate me to work on obedience. I'm writing a quick update here because that's likely to help me keep practicing!

With heeling, we're working on pivots (smoothing out my footwork and teaching Cai to respond to that footwork confidently), stepping off at a good pace (Dragon used to be slow to start), outside turns (always practicing to keep his drive up), and my holding a toy as a distraction/reward. We've used food for heeling for a long time because we were working on precision and a high rate of reinforcement. Now when I introduce toys, he starts jumping up and down in excitement and forges terribly. We keep the sessions short because he burns out quickly due to the difficulty of thinking when excited.

We've progressed from fronts that consistently pointed his bum to the left to 90% close, straight fronts. I'm working on adding distance now. I almost always reward him to having him go through my legs to get the reward, which keeps him wanting to be close and straight. We're also working on him recognizing my body langauge (stiff and straight, arms very straight at sides, head looking down to my toes).

Down on verbal -- pretty good response, unless he's within two feet of me, and then he frequently sits instead so that he can easily keep eye contact. My goal is for him to quickly lie down on the verbal cue anywhere, anytime, to make the drop on recall a cinch.

Go out to platform -- an easy way to build confidence moving away from me and create a set up for coming to front from a distance. I should teach him to target a piece of blue tape or similar so that we can practice go outs without the platform.

Dumbell -- so happy -- he has a great 3 second hold!! We only practice this in a specific context right now, to make the training very clean. I want to build up to 5 seconds before I start proofing in different locations. He takes the dumbell while sitting, which will help with backchaining the final retrieve. He always gets big rewards for the hold, and we only do 3 or 4 repetitions at a time.

Articles -- haven't practiced this in forever. He had been about 90% with metal canning rings and maybe 70% with leather rings, but at this point I'd have to back up in his training. Oops.

Stand for exam -- have done a handful of sessions with friends helping, and worked up to him standing while the person looms over him. Going slowly so that he feels really comfortable with it. (Dragon had the BEST stand for exam, sigh.)

Signals --  have to work them on a chair to keep him from creeping forward. Building muscle memory in with his recognition of the signals. I want him to know sit, down, and stand fluently. Not doing a signal for front yet since I want him staying back.

We still have a number of exercises to go: stays (ugh, really need to work on this, as he has little duration, because I find it boring), gloves, broad jump, and a LOT of distraction work and ring prep. No hurry.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Meet the Norwiches, and more pictures

Chimera is now one year old, maturing, slowly settling down, becoming less reactive, and doing well in his agility and other training. I've started thinking that next spring or summer, it will probably be a good time to bring home my next dog. I know that Cai would love to have a sibling to play with. I just want to wait until his reactivity is even better and hopefully he is trialing in agility, so that we're past the intensive skill-building training.

I love Papillons, but I'd like to have a small dog with a different disposition, as that will help me develop into a better trainer. I think my heart is set on a terrier. I may go through rescue and get a little "terrier-y" dog. However I loved raising a puppy and may go through a breeder again. I'm particularly interested in a Norwich Terrier, and this past weekend I went to a local agility trial to meet a Norwich Person. Of course I took pictures! Click on any picture to see it pop up in a bigger size, although they were taken with my iPhone and are mostly kinda blurry.

Kizzy was the cutest.
Kizzy saying hello to Ella.
Magic doing obedience.
I don't remember this one's name. :(
Razzy again.

Cai being sad that someone else is holding him and I'm holding a different dog. :( :( :(

Also, here's a random Sheltie who was so beautiful that I had to take a picture:
So pretty!

Cai barked at other dogs here and there, especially small ones that he wanted to play with. Other than a couple of fearful barks at a big Saint Bernard that was pottying next to us, all of the barking was clearly frustrated "I want to play!" It wasn't too difficult to redirect him and overall I'm pleased with how he did.

Back at home, I spent the rest of the day in bed with a cold. Chimera likes to climb on my chest whenever I lie down.
That's my nose and chin at the bottom.

Here's another picture of him being cute:

Agility 5.3 summary

I didn't blog about our previous two classes because I was so busy with the move. We are still practicing weave poles here and there, but our focus for these six weeks is contacts. I didn't want to train a 2 on 2 off contact with Cai because I'm wary of the force it puts on dogs' shoulders as they hit the ground. However I didn't want to do a pure running contact because I failed at teaching that to Dragon -- I wasn't able to make my criteria clear to him, and he started jumping. I truly think he didn't understand the behavior I wanted. I decided to go with a behavior that seems like a good compromise -- a modified running contact, or "run through the contact zone and then lie down on the ground". My hope is that because Cai is getting ready to lie down, that keeps his focus low and he won't jump the contact. (I have heard that some dogs will still jump over the zone and land in the trained position on the ground, but if necessary, I'll start using a hoop to keep him running low.)

We have already spent a lot of time learning to lie down on a mat (rectangular piece of bright pink yoga mat, which has great traction), and then run a contact trainer and lie down on the mat. That part is looking great, so we're using the lowered dog walk and a-frame in class to back chain it. This week I sent him over the entire a-frame and he had to problems with it other than trying to figure out his striding. At home, I have a tiny dog walk and a-frame that create the same angles as the AKC equipment, and the dog walk is currently set up for practice so I can work on speed and lateral distance.

For the teeter, I've got my small teeter (not as tiny as the dog walk and a-frame, but still smaller than regulation) set up on the back deck. In class, we've worked seperately on having him run up a full-height teeter while it was held steady by the instructor, and then working on dropping the end bit by bit and lots of feeding. He does very well with that part. So now we're working on having him run across a lowered teeter that will pivot normally under him. He was doing well until I moved forward too quickly and he shot off the end of the teeter, stopped himself with his back feet still on, and it lifted up under him and startled him. Then he started to slow down around the pivot point. So at home, I'm focusing on building drive to the end of the board but watching him carefully so that he's learning to stop soon enough that he doesn't make the same mistake.

In the meantime, the weave poles are, um, okay? He'll do a few reps perfectly, and once he makes a mistake, he starts skipping poles over and over. I decided to "go back to kindergarten" because his confidence and willingness to do the poles were taking a nosedive. We're back to four poles and I'm doing gentle proofing work to help him understand his job. I have to remember to keep it short!!

With jumps, we're continuing to practice 180s, 270s, back sides, and occassionally serpentines and threadles. It's all going well. We've had a breakthrough in lateral distance for 180s, yay.