Today was a banner day for Scorch.
Today, I feel like we actually will be ready for Open by August.
The only real hurdle left was the drop on recall. Everything else has been at least satisfactory; we just need more practice and proofing.
1. Heelwork and figure 8 - Scorch tends to go a bit wide on about turns. We, of course, always have a forging problem, which will undoubtably get worse when we're in the ring. He forges partly out of excitement and partly because he's just SO. DAMN. FAST. I've learned that speeding up my pace considerably helps with his positioning. However, that also makes my footwork sloppier on halts and about turns (which might explain why he goes wide).
His attention is great, however, and that's really the important part. Everything else is fixable; our necessary foundation is there. Also, his figure 8 is usually amazing.
2. Retrieve on the flat - Amazing. His fronts even seem to be straighter when he has a dumbbell. My only concern is if he is too excited, he might break his stay and retrieve the dumbbell before my command, but that rarely occurs in practice. Also, my throwing could be better.
3. Retrieve over a jump - Amazing. Again, I worry a bit about him breaking his stay but other than that, I'm pretty confident that he'll jump.
Actually, another competitor chatted with me after her Open run; her Weim went over the jump on the way back from retrieving on the flat. She was still happy because she'd rather he be eager to go over the jump. She'd been working on him retrieving horribly thrown, off-center dumbbells and making sure he re-aligned himself with the jump. So even though he should have stayed on the flat, he had a decision to make and he chose the jump. I definitely want a dog who jumps, especially after Jack's refusal pattern.
4. Broad jump - This just needs more practice. We worked on it a lot when prepping for our Rally trial. He jumps it straight most of the time; I need to wean him off of me moving or me tossing something to keep him straight.
5. Out of sight stays - I need to work on increasing the length of time; my only real concern is him going down on the sit. I need to find several ideal spots to work on this instead of just our driveway or my training building.
6. Drop on recall - This was the single greatest area of concern I had. We just weren't getting it. He would generally walk in unless I stepped towards him and used verbal and signal combined. I tried using a barrier and he tended to drape his paws over it... he takes shaping very literally at times and we both get frustrated. That was what he thought I wanted and it kept too much focus on the barrier. Then his downs in general became slower and he was folding into a sit first.
So I've just been dropping him more frequently throughout the day. I also make him sit at curbs on our walks, regardless of his position. Yesterday, the dogs were being obnoxious at dinnertime, so I boomed, "DOWN!" This was mostly directed at Wolfie and Norman, who were leading the obnoxious charge, but they of course ignored me. Scorch, on the other hand, hit the deck hard. THAT was what I'd been looking for!
So this morning, I took him out on the retractable. When he was ~20 feet ahead of me and nearing the curb, I'd tell him to sit... and he DID IT, without attempting to turn or come back to me. So he got his off leash run and then we went to teach a class. Before class, we worked with the dumbbell a little. After class, I decided to work on some drops.
I dropped him, then tossed the treat behind him. As soon as he ate it, I dropped it again. This was a drill he was familiar with, but his drops were much faster and more confident. Then, I called him to come and dropped him. He walked in and downed. I told him, "Try again!" and brought him back to the starting point and put him in a sit. Then I walked across the room and called him to come. He wasn't a crazed maniac this time, and I called a down.
I super-jackpotted him, and then, I admit it, I got a little greedy. I jazzed him up and set him up in a sit-stay again. Called him, dropped him...
Finally, my sensible trainer side stepped in and I ended it on a high note. We stopped all training for the morning and hopefully that's resonating in his mind. I might tempt fate and work on it some more tonight (along with the broad jump and some left-turn-stars).
Affording the cluster of shows is still a concern, but at least, from a training standpoint, I feel like we have a shot. I have an Easy Walk Harness on order in Scorch's size so maybe I can finally get a handle on his loose-leash walking. I've been "dialing the wrong number" with my techniques for too long. Time to bring in a training aid. It's amazing that a dog with such a beautiful heel has such an atrocious casual walk.