Tuesday, August 29, 2006

After Vacation

I was curious how Wyatt would be after taking a week off from obedience. I thought perhaps that he would not be much different since he is pretty enthusiastic overall. Well, he was really super charged and enthused for obedience. So sometime off really did seem to be a good thing. I am going to try and keep him really up by keeping things short and fun and varied.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


I am on vacation this week but will resume writing next week. We are taking a break from training and just having fun in the Adirondacks...

See you next week...

John and Wyatt

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Trust Your Dog (But Not With Dead Mice)

My goal for a recent NADAC trial was to trust my whippet Wyatt to work away from me more. At a trial, when anxiety is higher (for both of us) and when I am looking to qualify, I tend to run him closer to me than I would at home or in our weekly class. As I drove to the trial I wondered what would happen if I have him more space. Would be ran around jumps and tires? Would be break his stay at the start line? Would he blow his contacts?

NADAC has a lot of distance challenges built into their regular (standard) and chances classes. Wyatt did great on his first run of the weekend, which was chances and got the distance challenge fine. In the regular runs Saturday, he got the first distance challenge (a jump and teeter combination) but missed a weave pole distance challenge. We have not, up to now, practiced this much. I seemed to pull him out of the weaves with my verbal admonition to “go weaves”. Looks like I should trust him to do the weaves on his own.

Now I noticed that dogs had been distracted by something in this ring at day. After we missed the weaves and were running the rest of the course, Wyatt suddenly veered away from me and became obsessed with something on the ground. I could not get him to “leave it” and also could not catch him since I did not have his leash. I finally ran back to the finish line to get his leash. As I headed back to him, I saw him urinating in the ring, something he never does. I saw something furry on the ground when I returned and called for the cleanup crew to get the dead mouse off the course. You have to admire his determination on claiming that mouse; sometimes dogs are just dogs. Quite a few people thanked me for finding the distraction.

On Sunday, there was a great opportunity to test my ability to give him space in the tunnelers class, which is a course made up of all tunnels. Many people send a dog through one tunnel and stay at that end as their dog comes out and they direct them to an adjacent tunnel. I wondered if Wyatt would enter the second tunnel if I was way down the other end. This course happened to be a double shot, which means you can do the course a second time, right after you do it the first time, for (hopefully) a second qualifying run.

On the first go around, I gave him some distance, but not as much as I could have. On the second run, feeling confident, I gave him much more space. He did fine without me being close. Even though it was second run he was over a second faster the second time. That definitely showed that I will get faster run if I trust him to work farther way from me.

The last run of the weekend was jumpers, one of our best classes. We needed one more qualifying run to get our elite jumpers title. NADAC has really tightened up the times especially at the elite level. I knew that in jumpers he was really ready to work more at a distance. Sure enough, he did great, and he got his EJC title. So I really learned an important lesson this weekend: trust your dog (but not with dead mice!)

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Directed Retrieve (Finally Got It)

It took me a long time to figure out how to signal the correct one of three gloves to retrieve. In this exercise, three gloves are places across the ring in the left corner, middle, and right corner of the back of the ring. You heel your dog to the face the glove the judge specifies (verbally), and send your dog to get the glove. The dog has to retrieve the glove and return to the front of the handler, sit while the glove is taken, and then finish to the handler's side. Anyway, I just could not figure out the best way to tell Wyatt which glove to get. I finally figured out that, for him, I need to put my hand next to the side of his head, and move my hand straight out in the direction of the glove. Sounds simple but it took at least 6 months to get the exact position and movement right.

Monday, August 14, 2006


Lots to write about from last weekend but for now just a teaser. The title will be Trusting Your Dog but Not With a Dead Mouse.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Distance Challenge

I realized last night that I am still not taking advantage of Wyatt's ability to work at a distance. I can definately have more options working farther away from him. I need to trust that we can do it especially at trials. I have NADAC this weekend and hope to work on it together. I am also planning on doing some good obedience proofing at the trial.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

More on Proofing

The other thing I am thinking is that working on attention and motivaton will be a direct benefit to proofing. But I don't think it is enough. Still have to proof.

Practizing heeling today, I must say it is difficult to remove treats and voice at the same time...

The Third Aspect of Proofing

The other aspect of proofing (for traditional obedience) is (not) talking to your dog and being limited by voice and body commands and cues. So, we have three things to proof for:

1) No treats
2) No voice or body extra commands
3) Other dogs/new environment

What I am struggling with is which to do first? Also, if I don't use treats, should I use my voice more? That is my tendency but I think it may not work well.

My plan if to do short stretches with no voice and no treats and slowly increase the times without these reinforcing. Also, during trials, I really need to reinforce between exercises as allowed.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


I decided to really proof for no food at home and for other dogs at obedience class. Seems like that is more important that exercises right now since he knows most of the them up to and including utility (some, like directed jumping still need work) but has trouble performinh what he knows at trials.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Saturday Rally Excellent

We got our first Rally Excellent leg Saturday but it was not our best permformance. Wyatt seemed really nervous and preoccupied and was doing the world's slowest sits after multiple commands! We also missed the halt, pivot left, halt which has always been a hard one for us. But he did it and besides the one 10 pointer, he did everything. I scratched him in novice B because it seemed like it would be less than fun for both of us. This was our first time in Rally Excellent. I had to remember not to tap my leg which is not allowed in Rally Excellent. I do use that a lot to encourage Wyatt to stay in heel position. The experience reinforces that I have to proof him much more for no treats and for the trial atmosphere. I thought his might be a good location because the obedience and rally was off from the breed show but there was still a lot going on. I can tell Wyatt is stressed when he does the slow (or no) sits and starts looking around. You can just tell that his brain is only 50% available for obedience. Dawn and I also are wondering if Wyatt and Patriot would do better together. I just took Wyatt Saturday for rally and Patriot came later.

Saturday, August 05, 2006


We compete in Novice B obedience today and also in our first Rally Excellent class. I hope the judge does not do backup 3 steps! I will have to remember not to pat my leg or clap my hands. You can't do that in Rally Excellent. The trial is small and quiet away from the breed show but is outside. Should be interesting.

I say practicing yesterday that I really needed to cheerlead and act very up between exercises if there were no treats. Even then I saw a degradation in performance (mostly in lagging). Definitely need to work on that.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Treats & Other Dogs

I have been realizing what a bad job I have been doing proofing Wyatt. At class, he gets nervous with the other dogs. Recently, I found I need to lure him with food as we start heeling to really start without a lag. So, without food, our performance suffers. Around other dogs and lots of noise, our performance suffers. I can use food to help with the enviroment but not at a trial. For some reason, the excitement and movement of agility obviates the need for food at trials.

I am going to really work on not using food at home (at least sometimes). For example, when prepping for novice trials, I need to try and get the same performance without food. I do try and wean off before trials somewhat but I have not focused on this enough. And at class, I really need to work on getting his full attention even around other dogs. I need to start with food but try and wean off that over time. It is that or only enter very small, quiet, one ring obedience only trials...