Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Practice @ Katrin's and SeeSaw

Yesterday we (Ike & I, Cat & Tess [ESS], Sandy & Sadie [AS], Nancy & Remy [AS]) gathered at Katrin's ring to practice some agility. Cat was there before Ike and I arrived and had set up a flexible course with two tunnels, multiple jumps, and the dogwalk. She and Tess were already practicing, so I pulled out some poles and decided I would work Ike on his poles while we waited for everyone to arrive. Well, dork .... I did the classic bad owner training. I asked Ike for what he was able to do at home perfectly - now speedy poles - in a SUPER distracting environment (Cat & Tessie racing around and Katrin & Monty [CWC] outside the fence) and then KEPT asking him for it. UGH....every week at the shelter I remind people to back up if their dog fails and try again with something slightly easier. I am a bit frustrated with myself because this seems to be a recent theme - my wearing blinders when it comes to Ike. Thank the gods Katrin was out there and reminded me of one of the basic tenets of training. D'oh.

The rest of practice went really well with Ike displaying the confidence he lacked last week on Katrin's dogwalk and picking up some speed. We also incorporated the poles into a couple of sequences and Ike was able to whip through them (whip is a relative term, I described his previous weave performance to Nancy as "a semi truck doing the weaves"). A couple of thoughts: two weeks ago Ike handled all of Katrin's contact obstacles with confidence (to my surprise); last week he was very hesitant about all the contacts; on Saturday I groomed him and trimmed his nails and the fur between his pads. I wonder if that made the difference in his confidence level. I tend to think so.

Today Ike and I practiced the SeeSaw and stays for a while. Initially he was cautious about the teeter as we haven't done it in a bit, but he was quickly doing it pretty confidently and with more speed than usual. I reinforced him heavily for this. Then I began asking him to do the SeeSaw while I was about 3 1/2 feet away from it. At first Ike got about a foot up the SeeSaw and hopped off. The second time he completed it. Whoo-hoo!! Needless to say we repeated this a few times.

Then I practiced some distance stays with me running away from Ike. I am lucky my in-law's have a large backyard. Ike was a very good boy and held his stays. Since both of these seemed to go well I decided I would try to put Ike in a stay and send him to the SeeSaw from about 5 feet away. I told Ike, "Okay, SeeSaw" and he flew up it. Hooray! I consider this a breakthrough. I know we have LOADS of work to do with distance but considering Ike's attitude about the SeeSaw I am pleased with today's mini-session.

I've noticed in working on Ike's weaves and teeter performances that he seems to enjoy these brief one obstacle sessions a lot. He is much more playful and excited about the obstacles and the training. I have to think about how I can utilize this new knowledge of Ike's attitude for future obstacles. I see myself with a backyard full of equipment!


Cat and Tessie said...

Consider experimenting with different handling styles. Some dogs like to be handled "from the rear" and others like to be handled "from the front".

For example, Tessie prefers front crosses in most situations -- she finds them very motivating. She prefers a lateral send-out as opposed to a forward send-out. She forces me to be a very active, in-her-face handler or otherwise she stresses/acts demotivated.

However, some dogs prefer to be handled "from the rear": rear-crosses, forward send-outs, etc.

Also, some dogs like you to be "in their space" (I think this is more Ike, from what I've seen) where other dogs want to be "given some space" (which is totally Tessie -- back the hell up and give me 20' to do this, sez she).

But fool around. See if he's faster/more confident if you're doing all rear crosses as opposed to all front crosses. (A serpentine is a great way to practice this, since you can handle it all on one side, all front crosses, or all rear crosses -- we can do this next week at Katrin's if you so desire.) See if he's faster/more confident with you 4' away from him as opposed to 10' away from him.

All of the above should be tested at home where you don't have to worry about other potentially scary factors like other people, other dogs, clickers, dropped treats, unfamiliar obstacles, etc. Then take it 'on the road' and play around with it.

I found it amazing that Tessie prefers me to work her at a distance and it has been an absolute godsend in even attempting a Snooker course. Finally Amanda said to me in exasperation, "Why don't you just start sending and layering and make HER do all the work?" Lightbulb moment for all involved! (Although Tessie doesn't like layering much -- that needs to be added to my to-work-on list.)

Oh, and you're spot on with the trimmed paws/nails thing. Tessie is way faster on the teeter when the fuzz between her pads has been clipped as short as possible. She also picks up a TON of pine sap in my backyard where she potties, so it's good for me to be keeping an eye on her feet anyway. Nails don't seem to affect her as much but I always make sure they are shorter for indoors-on-mat things like showmanship, obedience, MasterPeace classes, and anything at All Dogs Gym -- she doesn't need the nail traction like she does when she's outside on grass.

Just random thoughts that came to me while reading your post! :) And hey, I'm about to finish building my table -- I know NADAC canned it, but if you want the details I'll be doing a blog post about it shortly. My father and I made the base out of 1&1/2" PVC -- adjustable height with a bit of effort. Better for indoor situations as opposed to outdoor since it's best moved by pushing/sliding it, but it's all good. I stole the idea from one we have at MasterPeace.

Jules and Ike said...

I think you are right. I feel like I have been getting ahead of myself a bit. I need to take it all down a notch and just fool around with Ike and see what works, what doesn't. He does like me to be right on top of him, but part of this is how I *trained* him.

Now that I realize how much fun he has with working just one obstacle I think I might re-work some of our basic obstacle performances....