Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Amanda Nelson Seminar

This weekend I attended a seminar on Foundation Skills with Amanda Nelson in Ithaca, NY. The seminar was hosted by the Finger Lakes Agility and Obedience Association and was held at Cornell University Livestock Pavilion, a nice heated barn - not quite as wide as the barn Maplewood rents.

The seminar went over foundation training and handling. Amanda and her husband Josh taught us the basic skills in the morning and discussed how we should progress on a week-to-week basis. The skills Amanda had us work on in the morning were out, here, switch, and tight. In the afternoon we incorporated the skills we worked on in the morning in some sequences.

The first skill we worked on was "out." Amanda uses large construction cones to train this. In the past she has used gates and that is what we use in Katrin's classes. Amanda had us walk past the cone as closely as possible with the arm closest to the cone extended. Your positioning initially causes your dog to choose to walk on the opposite side of the cone; combine the verbal and physical cue. Continue this exercise incrementally increasing the distance between you and the cone. Slowly transition to a smaller cone, then a 2 liter soda bottle, then a 16 ounce soda bottle, etc.

We did this exercise with multiple cones spaced a few feet apart. Amanda explained that the multi-cone exercise wasn't for week one of our practice session! This was for when we are consistently getting the performance we want with one cone and some handler distance.

Next we worked on the opposite of "out" which is here. If you work to train your dog to work "out" you must also train them to work in. Essentially Amanda had us do this by giving the dog enough space to come with us as we walked past the cone and including the verbal cue "here."

"Tight" means turn towards the handler in the most efficient path. Amanda had us train this by having the dog do an out around the cone and then using the hand that is on the outside (away from the cone) to lure the dog around the cone saying "tight." She said if we were going to use the clicker to be sure and click when the dog was bending. The handler needs to pivot as the dog is bending so you end up with the treat-hand beside the dog. I was doing this too slowly and therefor was facing Ike as he made his turn. Argh. This caused him to stop, of course. Amanda's husband Josh had me give Ike more space and try to turn quicker. That was fairly successful.

Next we practiced "Switch" which is teaching the dog to turn away from you; additionally the dog should change leads. Start out with you and your dog on the same side of the cone - dog is closest to the cone. Use your outside arm to lead the dog around the cone, AWAY from you.

Ike and I both had meltdowns on Saturday. Ike shut-down about noon on Saturday. After lunch when we went to work on the sequences poor Ike was completely out of steam. Katrin let me run Monty and he was willing to play with me!

I had *my* meltdown shortly after my first run with Monty. I was being VERY animated, trying to keep Monty involved with me and not running off to his mum and bro James.

When I finished the run, Nadia a seasoned NADAC competitor and fellow seminar attendee, said I should try being like that with Ike. I was CRUSHED. I translated that constructive criticism to mean that I wasn't being fair to Ike. One of my biggest concerns is that I am fair to Ike. I don't see *that* many handlers that are unfair to their dogs, but when I do they make me cringe. I find it incredibly distressing when a handler isn't fair to their dog and isn't willing to take responsibility for their part in the relationship.

Being Up versus Cheerleading

Later I was clarifying with Katrin - I said that Ike doesn't like me cheerleading and that he tunes me out when I do it. Katrin said that I wasn't cheerleading Monty I was just really up and animated. Katrin suggested that I am probably comfortable in my relationship with Ike and maybe I don't try to be as exciting as possible all of the time. With Monty, where I am just beginning a relationship with him, I am trying to keep him as involved as possible with me. I am definitely a bit complacent in my relationship with Ike, but he is also a VERY different dog from Monty. Ike doesn't really feed off positive emotions in terms of energy. Ike's most excited is still fairly tame compared to most dogs, but this is definitely food for thought.

I got a lot out of this seminar. Ike and I have really been having a difficult time with "Switch." I think our struggle is in part because we are both learning at the same time! This seminar gave me some really useful tools to practice this winter with Ike.

In addition I got to spend some quality time with Katrin, James, and Monty - AND meet Monty's breeders Holly and Leonard of Visions Cardigans. What sweet dogs they have!! And I met a lovely brindle pup named Chloe I wish I could steal! Of course, Ike liked their elderly mix, Jake who is about 4 x as big as Ike!!


Katrin said...

And you forgot to say just how AWESOME!!! you did the switches with IKE in class last night!! :-)))


JULES & IKE said...

Ha!!Thanks! That is next post! : )

Ike and I worked really well together last night! I owe it all to the Ithaca trip!