Sunday, April 10, 2011

Someplace to Start

Yesterday Bug and I had a half-hour private with Katrin. After we had gotten together to work on "pivots" a few weeks ago, Katrin and I discussed the possibility of privates. I just wasn't getting enough feedback from the Rally class I was in. Katrin has a background in competition obedience and I don't. She's a good teacher. I decided to go for it and I am really glad I did. We have half-hour privates set up for however long we decide to do this.

The first thing we discussed was Bug's sit. When he sits he puts his bum down and them moves his front legs back. Our first order of business is teaching Bug that he can sit without moving his front paws. At the moment he does not fully believe this! :) Katrin showed me two different ways to try and teach Bug he can do this. Method one was asking for a sit while Bug was nibbling on treats so his front stays more stationary. This almost worked a few times, but not quite.

Bug was stressed and tried to diffuse he tension by doing his shoulder grind and giving Katrin his belly. We didn't reward this behavior and he came back to work. It is such a huge difference from 3 years ago. He does have some tension diffusing behaviors (for him) that I don't reinforce, but he no longer quits on me. That in itself makes me really proud of him.

The second method involved having Bug nibble on treats and gently running your hand over his rear so he tucks his bum. That method seemed to get much better results, but it became painfully obvious that Bug's pelvis or sacrum is out and I have a hella lot of work to do in terms of desensitizing him to other people's pressure. He really isn't terrible with me, still sensitive, but when Katrin was trying to work with him he was excruciatingly sensitive to her pressure. He did improve significantly and I am 100% sure that part of it is because his rear doesn't feel good.

The next thing Katrin showed us is what she calls "home base." Heel position = Home Base. She showed me how to work this, but I am not going to work on it at home until Bug understands he can sit without moving his front feet. Basically you stand parallel to a wall and have your dog come into the space between you and the wall, in heel position, and sit. Then you release by moving forward with your left foot and tossing a treat.

Since Bug is so long Katrin had me feed him a bit to the left so he wouldn't swing his rear behind me. She also showed me how she teaches front currently. Against the wall you have your dog in heel position. Stay, using two steps you move in front of dog into the correct "Front" position. Feed your dog, stay, move back into heel position, release with a tossed treat. Once Bug gets his sit under control we will start this. Initially I will only be in "Front" position for a half second. I will build duration. Right now any longer and Bug gets nudge-y.

To end the lesson we worked on our brick work. I wish I could capture Bug's joy when he is doing this. He is so silly he is beaming. Since I am using a book at home and our lesson was outside I did not bring our "brick" Katrin uses a black round bowl that looks like what you'd pick up at a feed store to feed grain in. It is the perfect size when flipped over. I think I might need to pick one up!

Initially Bug wasn't sure what to do, but after I clicked him for sniffing it he hopped right on up. I am using my body pressure to have him move his rear versus shaping it. Very quickly he was moving away from my pressure (to the left). The surprise was he also began moving into the empty space, meaning moving to his right as I move away from him on his right. I was so excited and I think he was too!!

Next week is a trial, so we will not have a lesson. Given how much we have to work on that is a good thing!

For the first time since I found out Bug cannot return to agility (in January) I am excited about my alternative option (Rally and Obedience). I know there are other options like tracking and Nosework, but I thought Rally would be the best place to start, even though it doesn't really excite me very much. I am undecided about whether Bug will continue with herding. He is very sensitive about his rear and I am unsure how fair it would be to him structurally to have him continue to do it. My gut leans toward giving it up, but I don't want to. So, I am sitting on the fence for a while to see if time helps me figure out the correct choice. It helps that at the moment we have no money because of the new house (and our oil bill - holy crow!) so I really can't do more than one class per dog and even that makes things tight.

There is a Show n Go on May 21st that I plan on entering. Bug is not competition ready and probably won't be by then, but I really want to see what dog I have. Katrin said it makes sense given I come from the "Land of Ike" and I need some reassurance the dog I am working is going to be the dog that shows up. I am fairly certain Buggie will come ready to work - he doesn't stress about new locations and places like Ike does. However as I said, I need the reassurance. They are offering Rally and Obedience classes. I am going to enter Novice Rally and a second run is half the price. I like to have something to aim for and I think I will look into whether other local facilities offer any rally run-thrus I can attend for practice.

It's nice to be exciting about Rally/Obedience instead of just doing it for something to do. Bug is such a good boy, all he wants is to work with me! I am a lucky mama.


Katrin said...

I'm glad you are excited! :-) I really do love obedience and training for it, I'm glad you and Bug are enjoying it as well.

Just a reminder on the fronts, don't forget start with your hands at your side so he gets the true "picture" of what the front position looks like- you standing in front, hands at your side, him sitting square, then move your hands to reward.

Katrin said...

oh and my black bucket is indeed a feed grain bucket, they make terrific outdoor water dishes for dogs! they don't crack in winter, they don't collect gunk in them and they're large. In addition they make a good makeshift "brick" as you found out on Sat! LOL You can get one at Gilmores (Walpole) or Ferensteins (Foxboro).

Katrin said...

Another method to get the tuck sit, I was thinking of the other day after your lesson, would be using the brick. Since he is learning that brick = front feet on the brick, if you used a thin and narrow enough book or an actual brick (I'd go for the actual brick due to it's size), and had him put his front feet on the brick then cue a "sit" see if you can get him to sit and tuck his butt while keeping his front feet on the brick. It might make more sense to him as an intro to the concept.

Jules said...

I will see if he can figure out the sit with his feet on the brick. It's a good idea given how much he loves it!

I am excited to be excited. And I will be sure my hands are down in the front position!

Brenda said...

Sounds like it was a fun and productive lesson! I did some Rally with Onyx but my real love is competition obedience. :-) Hope you and Bug enjoy doing both.

I was going to suggest, as Katrin just did, using the brick to try getting him to tuck his butt without moving his front feet back as he sits.