Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Getting Old

I took Wyatt and Patriot coursing this weekend for one day. Patriot really seemed to have slowed down since last year. He will be 7 in 2 weeks. He was quite a bit behind the 2 and 3 year olds that he was coursing with. He was so far behind, he got unsighted several times during his first run. His second run was better. But it really sunk in that he is getting older and will not be with us forever. Wyatt and Patriot are our first dogs and it was hard to realize that Patriot's prime, at least in coursing, is behind us. Wyatt had an awesome first run but his second run was not as good. He should have gotten first or second single though; we did not stay for awards.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Agility Update

I have been working with Wyatt on 12 pole weaves at a distance. He is doing very well with this and I am able to work about 15 feet away. His success does depend on the placement of the previous obstacle but he is progressing well and I am gradually increasing my distance and putting things like tunnels between me and the weaves. I am working on contacts too but he is really good at home. But I try to fool him to realize early or not stop. But he really seems to understand the behavior at home. Trials are a different story of course! He does not go all the way down and will stop higher up sometimes if I am way behind him unless I verbally encourage him to go to the very end.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Safety in Pack Animals

I was at a little horse fair Sunday and there was a horse whisperer type of person. What he was saying made a lot of sense to me and was also relevant to dogs. He was a positive trainer and emphasized that ideally he animals elects you as their leader rather than through force. In any case, he has a mustang is a large ring before he started. The horse was upset and galloping around the ring and heading towards a fence. The owner was not visible and another horse of the owner's was out of sight but could be heard. The guy claimed that the horse was actually showing a fear of death since it was a pack animal and separated from his herd. My wife told me to watch out and that the horse might jump the fence. I was skeptical but sure enough, the horse did eventually jump the fence.

Anyway, he was saying that you had to convince the horse that you would protect and ensure the horse's safety. It made me think about Wyatt, who is a fearful dog with some separation anxiety, and especially working the out of sight sits and downs now with difficulty. It gave me the idea to work with Wyatt sits and down by actually going out the door. He could not do this at all with his back to me but I was able to work with short (10 second) sits and downs with me going out the door. He seems to break most often when leaving when you have your back to them so I hope I am on the right track working specifically on anxiety when leaving. It is almost makes this less of a training issue and more of a emotional training issue. I also wondered when I saw that horse how it relates to dogs. Wild canines are also pack animals. Maybe what we call separation anxiety is a normal response to being a pack animal.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Drop On Recall Progress

I believe I discovered the solution I was having with drop on recall. When I took Wyatt to class he would sometimes fail to drop especially the first time. I wondered if I had trained him to do this. Somewhere along the line, I had been told it was good to do a straight recall first (without a drop) to get the speed up. So I would always do a straight recall first usually with a treat visible. This did work great but I believe that he came to expect that we always did this first and would not stop or creep a lot if I did a drop first. I changed my habits at home to do a drop first and he seemed to have improved greatly in his first drop of the session.

Last night in class, I got great a great drop, broad jump, and retrieves all with perfect fronts. He did go down on his sit right at the end so we did it again with me coming back early and he was fine. If we could only get the sits and downs 100%, we are so ready for open!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

First Time Tracking This Year

We went out on a straight track first. Wyatt tracked all the way to the start pulling hard across a big field so he clearly enjoys the game. There was a strong breeze and we had a 1/2 hour track so the scent was strong. I held ground when he started going too far off track. However, this seemed to stress him out. He may have been confused because he was on scent and I was stopping him. Tricky, you want the dog to be right on the track but if he still has the scent, he probably is confused about why he is being stopped. The instructor told me to try and be more smooth and not stop him suddenly but increase the tension more slowly. They also noted that my voice and body language seemed to throw him off at times. I think he is so responsive from obedience and agility but in tracking this can work against you. They suggested using a lower voice (in pitch). I may also want to try and work without much voice and use my body language instead (except when he finds an article). Second track had a turn. He had trouble on the turn but seemed to gain confidence on the last long leg. We seemed to lose a little over the winter but that's OK. I hope to actually practice at home more between going to the practices.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Don't Reward the Correction

Reward the correct behavior and not the correction. Something I have been thinking about. I think we do reward the correction a lot and need to be very careful about that. Example is when Wyatt pops up on his down stays (like this morning - frustrating!).

If I put him back in a down and finish the down stay and then reward him, I am probably rewarding the correction and may be unintentionally rewarding the incorrect behavior - exactly what I don't want. That is pretty clear. So what is a poor trainer to do instead?

I can finish the down stay and praise but not treat him. That is what I usually do. Or I can stop, do something else, and try again later.

How would you handle this situation?

Monday, May 05, 2008

NADAC Tunnelers and Jumpers Video

Wyatt and Patriot earned Elite (Wyatt) and Novice (Patriot) Tunnelers titles on May 5, 2008. Not my and Wyatt's best run but it does show the speed he has in tunnelers. Patriot and Wyatt also had great Elite Jumpers runs and Patriot's was captured on video.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Open Run Thru Results

I am very happy to report that Wyatt did perfect sits and downs last night (out of sight). We have been working on this every day for over a year and this was the first time he achieved perfect down and sit in class. I don't think we are out of the woods yet but I am cautiosly optimistic that we are making strong progress.

For the rest of the run through, Wyatt did great. We lost 4 1/2 on heeling, 0 on retrieve on flat, 1 on retrieve over jump, and 1 on the broad jump. I had to give a double command on drop on recall to get him to drop. He is occasionally having drop issues but I am not too worried about it. But we would have received a 193 1/2 assuming we had a perfect drop on recall.