Friday, March 26, 2010

Mom! There's a Cat in the Tunnel!

So, I found out just how valuable video can be in training yesterday. I also found out how oblivious I am to my surroundings. When Dare and I went out to train there was a pheasant in the agility field. He wandered off, and Dare didn't mind him being out there anyway, so I just set up the camera and off we went. I did know that Gertie our cat had also come out to train, but I didn't pay much attention to her either.

Well, I was working with Dare on her 2o/2o contact on the dogwalk, and I also wanted to throw in a little mix of obstacle discrimination with the tunnel. So, I set her up to do the tunnel first and then we'd do the dogwalk. Well, as you'll see in the video. Dare was distracted, and I wasn't paying any attention to why she was distracted. I just kept on working. Oblivious!!!! We ended the session on what I thought was a good note and I came in.

It wasn't until I watched the video clips back later on in the evening that I realized what was going on out there. Boy did I feel foolish. LOL It kind of looks like Dare is bouncing up to tell me "Mom!!! There's a cat in my tunnel!!! Mom!!!" on the way to turn off the camera. I can't tell you how grateful I am that I have a girl like Dare to work with that is able to deal with these type of distractions and being handler impaired besides. She is such a good girl! :-) Here's the video.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Obedience Lesson

Dare got to have an obedience lesson on Monday. I had every intention of posting about it before now, but I haven't had a chance. I wanted to get in writing what we were working on though, before I forget.

We worked on her heeling and guess what? I've been rewarding her for being in a forged position. LOL That paired up with the fact that she'd like to push me to "go faster mom, faster!" is really going to end up getting us in trouble. So, we worked on getting me used to what it looks like when she is actually in heel position standing in place, with a mirror so I could actually see what the whole picture looks like. Then we started heeling, really, really slow. Fortunately Dare is a quick learner and she's adjusting to the new position much more quickly than I am.

We also showed her how our retrieving games are coming along. She pointed out something interesting to me. She said that the Shelties have a tendency to really make a wide loop when they retrieve, so to clean that up a bit for obedience she had me throw the toy out and watch which way Dare turned to pick up the toy to run back. Then, I am to turn the opposite direction, so that instead of looping wide, it makes it like a tight figure eight when she returns. The only hard part is me figuring out which direction to turn. LOL

We also showed her our recall work. Dare did a great job on her "wait" and she is running in with really nice speed and enthusiasm. From that recall though, we got to looking at her sits. The best way I can describe it is like she's slouching. It's not really like a rock sit and it's not like it's off to one side or the other, but it's slouchy. (I think it's something you'd have to see, because I can't describe it very well). Anyway, she wants us to work on having her sit up straight and rewarding her up higher. Sounds simple, right? Well, that took a good portion of our lesson. :-P We've worked on it the last couple days though, and Dare is getting it figured out. Now I think I just need to work on building duration. She sits nicely and gets her treat, then it's like she relaxes back into her slouchy position again. LOL So, yesterday, I tried to focus on her being able to hold her position for a little longer. We are still just at a few seconds at this point, but I think it's probably like for me. If I have to sit up straight, it's using different muscles than I'm used to using and it's easier to just go back to the comfortable position again, until you build up the new muscles.

Anyway, that's a review of what we worked on in our lesson. Dare got to come along with Twist and Layla this weekend for Twist's obedience trial. If we do anything fun, I'll try to get pictures or video and post those.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Dare's Tricky

I keep meaning to work more on tricks and I don't always get around to it, but I thought I'd share Dare's latest trick. I think it's pretty cute. The best part was how simple it was to teach.

So, all I did was show Dare how to pull the kleenex out of the box once, and then I set it on the ground and told her to "get it". She figured it out with no problem. :-) The only thing that I've noticed is that if she's too excited she tries to grab the whole box instead of just one tissue. That, or she'll grab the tissue and then want to tug with it instead of just giving it to me. LOL

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Keeping Track of Training

I found something really cool when I joined the Training Levels yahoo group. They had a link to something called the training tracker. Honestly, I don't know who took the time to develop this site or program, but it's an awesome tool. It is designed to allow you to log in your training sessions, what level of skills you're working on, and then what tests you've completed. Not only is it a way to track your progress on whatever skill and whatever level you're on, it automatically calculates your percentage of success with each behavior in a session.

Anyway, if you can't already tell, I'm liking it. One of the things that it's helping me to see is that I more often than I realized, I am getting an inconsistent response to cues, or having to give repeated cues. It seems funny to me that I was ignoring these things. You'd think it would be pretty obvious, but I guess I just needed to see on paper that some behaviors were successful only about 50% of the time.

As embarrassing as it is to admit, our weakest point is the one skill that most dogs learn first. "Sit" using a verbal cue only. LOL Maybe I didn't give it much attention, just assumed that she knew it. After seeing what our rate of success was on this skill, I realized it needed our attention. One of the things that was interesting is that when I'd give the verbal cue to sit when was facing me, she would flip around to sit in heel position. I thought about why this might be happening, and then realized that usually when the dogs are facing me, I am working on hand signals, not verbals. So, probably the most I have used a verbal Sit cue is when my dogs are in Heel position and we are doodling. For instance, I'll say, "up sit" when I want them to take one step with me and sit again in heel position. I think that inadvertantly, I've paired the verbal sit with being at my side. LOL

I decided to eliminate the possibility of her swinging into heel position by working with a wall on my left side. That kept her facing me and she seems to be understanding quickly that Sit just means sit, not get into heel position. Tonight she was 5 for 5 on sitting quickly and straight in front of me without the wall. Woohoo!

Anyway, to whoever came up with the training tracker, a big thank you from both Dare and I!