Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Competition Obedience, Class # 5

While Acadia was a blast, I was bummed to miss our classes. I was also a little bit nervous about my obedience class; were Ike and I going to be left in the dust? Gulp! We did find time to practice some heeling, fronts, recalls, and set up positions - although not nearly enough to make me feel like we had actually practiced.

On a side note - something I find difficult with obedience is that I have been trained to only train in small increments. This works well for Ike since he gets easily stressed out. However, with more complicated behaviors and multiple new behaviors it begins to get a bit overwhelming to me. I want to practice, practice, practice - but I can't do that to Ike. I guess it just means I will need to be more innovative in incorporating this stuff into my everyday life.

So, Monday's class started with a discussion about the Utility level of obedience and the many different ways you can train a dog to "get out." It was interesting to me since I have been exposed to a similar behavior in agility. Some of the more experienced students were giving Esther a bit of grief for going on about Utility exercises with us. However, she had a good point - she basically wants us to know that some of the ways she is trying to teach us to teach our dogs things pays off later - if there is a later for some of us!

We started the class by walking and halting. There are eight people in the class and we lined up beside each other and began walking in a straight line halting periodically and asking for the setup position without the contortions. Ike did really well the first half of our trip. On the return he was quite far away from me and I couldn't figure out why until Esther pointed out that Darwin, a 3 1/2 month old husky, was in front of Ike now. Ah, Ike and his love of puppies.

Esther then explained how the zen stay game pays off! Apparently during the long sit the dog must be comfortable with having the judge walk beside them and behind them while the handler is 6 feet away. If they are accustomed to a cookie playing airplane with them while they are in a stay, that is a good foundation for the long sit. Ahh....

The we discussed the "Stand for Examination" portion of an obedience test. "Stand for Examination" is one of the main reasons I did not consider obedience - I was afraid Ike would not be able to do this. I have since realized that with enough patience, cookies, and praise almost anything is possible (albeit amazing)!

In the "Stand for Examination" you must cue your dog to stand and the judge then inspects your dog, touching their body while walking about them. Esther kindly suggested that almost none of the dogs in our class would be capable of that at this point. In fact, she suggested that she would be surprised if they could do this in the sit position. One of our pieces of homework is to practice asking our dog for a sit-stay and then proceed to walk around them, feel their shoulders, walk away, come back, feel their lower back, etc. This will be a tough exercise I think and I look forward to practicing it with Ike.

Then Esther told us how she likes to see a "Stand for Examination" occur. She said ideally the dogs should push his back legs out without really moving his front paws. She instructed us to ask our dog for a sit, give a cookie, and then with another cookie move your hand/cookie under their chin. The dog wants to follow the cookie, and since it is at the chin level they tend to keep their head more stationary and push back with their legs.

Ike and I went to a far corner to try this out. Ike was like a worm, scooching his butt and going through contortions to try and get the cookie. When Esther came over to see how we were doing I explained to her that he was worming away. We tried it then with her and he did it perfectly, but I realized that I moved my hand less. During my previous attempts I had been moving my hand closer and closer to Ike - I think I was unconsciously trying to entice him to do what I wanted! Argh! We have since practiced this quite a few times at home and Ike is definitely getting it.

We also practiced our recalls again. Ike did well. I still have this inclination to bend toward him and I really have to work at stopping that. Since Ike more or less trots to me, Esther suggested I run the last couple of steps and yell to him. That actually produced a slight gallop from Ike. Yippee!

I am excited about the progress we are making - I am also a little bit overwhelmed by all the information and new things to keep track of! That's part of the reason it has taken me days to get this post up here...

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