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.

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