Sunday, January 31, 2010

Handling Fundamentals

This weekend Bug and I attended three (3) four-hour seminars put on by our club, Act-Up. The presenter was Debi Hutchinson who has a great reputation for distance and discrimination work. Bug and I worked Handling Fundamentals (Sat. a.m.) and Novice Distance (Sun. a.m.); I audited Discrimination (Sat. p.m.).

Debi is an excellent teacher and I felt like she was really positive and supportive of each individual handler-dog team, and gave each team excellent individualized instruction/pointers. I think I got the most out of the Handling Fundamentals seminar which I didn’t even plan on working. I had signed Bug up for the Discrimination seminar, but where his contacts are still not 100% - and in truth he is a baby dog – I didn’t feel it was the best fit. I am SO glad I was able to switch him to Handling Fundamentals!

Debi started by saying she feels that the core of handling is changing directions and there are two ways to do that – dog versus handler. She had us walk 1 through 9 (I believe) and run it to see how we handled it. With Bug I did a front cross between 4 and 5. My cross was late and Bug went wide, but made 5. Every dog-handler team that tried a front cross there was late.

Debi talked about how you need a tunnel send in order to be able to make it into the correct position for that cross. In addition your dog needs to be able to kiss the stanchion (i.e. turn tightly).

Debi had us start giving our tunnel cue earlier – as soon as the tunnel entrance was “framed” by jump # 2 which was well before lifting for #2. We worked on sending to the tunnel (from #2) with Debi on the other end and a handful of treats to reward the dogs. Bug actually blew by her every time but the first time. Early in the seminar he was committing more (or I was supporting him better) and I was able to send him to the tunnel and pretty easily get into position and be waiting for him between 4 and 5 and cue that turn nice and early.

We took a break from tunnel sends after we had cycled through the attendees a few times and the dogs were driving into the tunnel. Then we all took a jump and worked on tight turns with a single jump. Debi wants the dogs turning on the lift side so that they are not dealing with it in the landing side. Bug found that exercise over stimulating - lots of dogs with varying degrees of energy in a close space. He worked, but was very distracted.

Then we went back to working the tunnel sends but with a gate prohibiting us for continuing our forward motion and no Debi waiting at the end of the tunnel. Bug does not really have a send yet and he is very cued into my motion. I have a terrible habit of stopping my motion abruptly and Bug says, “Huh? I guess I should stop too.” We had to move the gate closer for us so that I could support Bug.

Debi talked a lot about being committed to your mistakes, ex: if you forget where you are going. She said, “A thousand and one things could go wrong but you want the dog to think he is brilliant and you’re brilliant.” She wanted us to reward and incorporate – not fix. She says the stress of fixes often bite you in the butt 3 obstacles later (I believe she said Sharon Nelson pointed this out to her). Debi said by “fixing” you ultimately lose drive. Hmmm….both Katrin and Kathleen say/do variations of this. They both stress rewarding your dog when you get lost or make a “mistake.”

Then we ran the entire course. At the tunnel I repeatedly stopped my forward motion too soon and too abruptly. Then when Bug did take the tunnel I neglected to take a break and reward him (GAH!). Coming out of the tunnel #7 I was way ahead of Bug. Debi had me do it again. She said Bug is a dog that, at least right now, likes me to do 50% of the work and being so far ahead of him is demotivating. Hmmm…I think we touched on this in class just this past Tuesday.

So to recap:

I have a tendency to put the brakes on – I need to appear to be moving to support my dog.

If things go wrong incorporate and reward.

Reward more frequently.

If I have to go into the curve of a tunnel or really deep into an obstacle pocket WAIT for my dog and drive out together – don’t be waiting for them further down the course.

As Debi said these things I couldn’t help smiling because Kathleen has been saying these things to me recently and Katrin has said some of them in the past. Debi asked if it sounds familiar, due to my smile and head shaking. Unfortunately yes. I am working hard at changing it, but I do believe in times of stress – even times you don’t think are stressful, like a seminar – you revert. And of course, in all honesty, I haven’t kicked these habits yet.

Then we talked about Switch, Tight, Left, and Right. Debi believes in teaching distance and directionals with a lower jump height because you aren’t working jumping. She teaches Switch with a toy and a jump – marking the motion the dog turns the direction you want. She teaches directionals with a toy as well. I am not sure I would be able to use directionals on course myself but it would certainly be a useful skill.

The way Debi starts the foundation for directionals is to sit on the couch with your dog in front of you. Toss the toy to your dog's right with the verbal cue "Right" - same with "Left." Rinse and repeat. Then she continues practicing in different locations, taking it outside, etc.

All in all it was an excellent seminar. I think Bug and I both got a lot out of it. I think Ike would have enjoyed it too.

More tomorrow. Right now, I am too tired to blog about auditing the Discrimination seminar or this morning's Novice Distance seminar. Needless to say I learned a lot in both!


Sam said...

I'd love to do a seminar, but not sure how Marge would do with one. I suppose I could audit.

Sounds like you learned a lot - your post comes at a good time because I'm working on tunnel sends and crosses too.

And I often have that treating problem as well -- I love the feeling of running a complete sequence without stopping so I sometimes neglect to tell Marge she's doing a good job. I've gotten better, though.

Katrin said...

Glad to hear you liked Debbi. She is awesome!! I'm sad I missed seeing her. Haven't been able to see her in a number of years. Hope the club has her back at somepoint when I can go

Sara said...

Great stuff! I love the idea of rewarding your dog when you make a mistake. I usually try to just ignore the fact that I made one, but that's hard to do. Making the effort to reward your dog makes so much sense.

I also like the idea of teaching directionals with a toy. Oreo doesn't know directions at all, but I think using a toy would work great with him.

Jules said...

I hope we have her out again next year - she was excellent.

Sara - I just added a note with a little more detail about directionals.

I really like her idea of always having your dog think you're both brilliant no matter how far south things go in your own opinion.

Sara said...

Thanks for the extra info. That's a great winter activity for us to do indoors.

Blue said...

Sounds like a great seminar!

Nancy and Stewie JRT said...

Sounds like a great day! Glad you learned some new things. See you at Addicted trial. Are you commuting or staying over?

Jules said...

Hi Nancy, It is only about 40 minutes for me so I will be commuting. How about you? If you are staying over we should grab dinner.

Nancy and Stewie JRT said...

I have a reservation at the Quality Inn. If the weather is clear (Michelle promised it would be) I will drive down early Sat morning so I only have to stay over one night, since Mary isn't coming with me.
Here is my cell # 603-548-0669, so we can coordinate for dinner on Sat.
Can't wait to go!

Jules said...

me too! Do you want me to text you my number?