Monday, June 15, 2015

Second TDAA trial and TBAD title!

At our first agility trial, Cai was too overstimulated to eat or play until the end of the day. On Sunday, he played tug and ate chicken within an hour of getting out of the car! We were at the same place in Vacaville, with Pint Size Agility.

I alternated our free time between walking around and letting Cai acclimate and rest time in his crate, with just a handful of tricks thrown in. I wanted to make sure that he was still comfortable enough to eat, but didn't want to work his brain too hard. He was primed and ready at the start of our first run.

AM Beginner run, regular speed:

AM Beginner run, slow motion:

We did perfectly until the very end, where I was too far behind and Cai turned toward me instead of going straight ahead, and went around the last jump. I knew that that was a weakness for us but he was just too fast for me! We still qualified since I got him back and going over the jump the right away.

This was our third Q in Beginner, so Cai is officially a BAD dog! TBAD, that is: Teacup Beginner Agility Dog.

We moved up to the Intermediate class for the "PM" run (although the trial was so small and started so early, that the "PM" runs started at 9 am). The Intermediate class includes 6 weave poles. I warmed up Cai on a set of weave poles outside the ring. He was getting hot and tired, but I knew that if I didn't, he would run right past the poles in the ring.

PM Intermediate run, regular speed:

PM Intermediate run, slow motion:

This run did not go well. Cai knocked the bar on the third jump. He rarely does that, so I think he just didn't estimate the distances between jumps properly and took off too late. He did the weave poles beautifully. After the next jump, he ran off toward the chute instead of following me to the a-frame. Not sure why; something caught his attention? I got him back and he went up the a-frame a bit slowly. He didn't lie down after the contact and got stressed by my front cross. He may have interpreted it as a correction, or he was just plain confused. He started stress-sniffing. (The front cross would have been fine if he'd promptly laid down after the contact.) I got him back and we finished the last few obstacles. Whew!

Things to work on: proofing the post-contact down, proofing the weave poles, and improving his comfort level with the teeter (he did these teeters fine but was stopping earlier than I like). We're going to do more matches before returning to classes later this year. Due to budget and time constraints, I have to choose between classes and entering matches or trials.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Focus work at park, Home Depot

After Ferretpalooza (which I still need to write about), I've recommitted to taking Chimera to a variety of places to work on focus around distractions. Last week I took him to a quiet park. I picked a shady spot and we hung out. Cai spent twenty minutes mostly scanning the environment. If he looked at me, I praised him and gave some petting. Finally he was looking at me more often and seemed to want something to do. I offered him some chicken, which at first he sniffed but ignored, but eventually ate. Once he ate the pieces of chicken lying on the ground, he would eat from my hand, and then he was able to focus pretty well (about 90%) for 4-5 minutes of work. I should have stopped after just 1, maybe 2 minutes. Greedy trainer! Instead he petered out and had to go back to acclimating. I waited another 15 minutes, but he wasn't ready to work again, and it was time to go home.

I realized that outdoor spaces are still too overstimulating for him. We need to get more success in busy indoor spaces. Yesterday I took Cai on a shopping trip to Home Depot. He walked with me all around the store as I picked up homesteading supplies. Then I packed my goods into the car, picked up my treats, and went back in for training.

I picked a quiet aisle and let him look around, and gave brief praise and petting when he looked at me. I think it was about 10 minutes in that he started to look bored of just watching and wanted to do something more interesting. I tried out asking him to do a few tricks just for attention and petting, which is medium value compared to treats, but he often accepts it as a reward (and it successfully increases behaviors) even when he's too overstimulated to eat. I did see an brief increase in focus and willingness to perform a sequence of behaviors. However it was not a pretty, enthusiastic performance. Then I pulled out the chicken, and he lit up and wanted to work.

We did one trick per reward at first, then combined them into sequences of up to 4 tricks, but none of them required sustained focus beyond heeling 2-3 steps. The rapid cues served to bridge better than doing one trick for a longer duration (such as a long stay or heeling farther).

We moved out of the quiet aisle and toward a corner at the front of the store. There was a moderate number of other shoppers. We did more short sequences of multiple tricks. Cai did better than I'd expected! He barely lost focus as people walked by.

I'm feeling proud - and even better, like I finally have a clear way of progressing toward my goal: a dog who will be able to focus in any environment, whether a trial or a busy public market.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

First agility trial, with TDAA!

Back on May 17th, Chimera made his agility trial debut! This was at the Pint Size Agility TDAA trial in Vacaville. I chose this teacup trial to be our first since I knew that it would be quite small and laid back. Cai was super excited to see all the other small dogs, of course. However, when we went over to some practice equipment, far away from the crating area, he was happy to pay attention and warm up to me.

I felt quite confident before our two standard runs. I drew out our paths on the course map, then closed my eyes and visualized what I would be seeing and doing at every point on the course. I still ended up with one bobble, but otherwise our runs were fast, clean, and smooth! Chimera and I qualified both times.

Here the first run in real time:

The bobble is when I forgot to front cross after the table and almost ran into in Cai. He responds by getting stressed and moving off to sniff the grass. Fortunately he came back with just a little cajoling.

First run in slow motion:

The slow motion shows that as Cai does the jump right before the rear cross (about 4:30), I started to lean into him in anticipation of the cross, and he actually switches leads to land in preparation for going to the left. Good boy! Bad handler, giving confusing body language! He seems to have a preference for being on the right lead?

Second run in real time:

Cai was noticeably slower on this run. He was getting tired from all the excitement of the show. However we ran completely clean!

Second run in slow motion:

Again, I'm seeing slight preference for the right lead. Good to know.