Sunday, August 28, 2011

Training today

We had a good training day today; short but sweet. Most of what we've been doing has been throughout-the-day-type work: stays at my desk, heel-up while we're walking, random drops, etc. Now it's time to get back to regular sessions.

Willard Bailey, author of two of my favorite dog books, posted on his blog about his method for teaching go-outs. I've never liked the "treat on the ring gate" technique; it's just not for me. I tried it with Jack and he was very focused on the gate itself. While we never got to finish our training or get to Utility, it seemed like searching the gate for food is a behavior that would re-emerge under stress. I've seen it happen to dogs in the ring, and I can absolutely see it happening with my dogs.

I've done some targeted go-out work, and I've worked with boxes and barriers for our straight heels and fronts, but I hadn't ever combined the two. So my challenge to myself is to try Willard's technique and see how it goes. Basically, we're starting with 3-sided PVC box; I put the target and the treat at the far end of the box, and right now, I'm just leading Scorch up to it and telling him to get it. I want to work up to him running to the target in a straight line from a greater distance. When we add the turn-and-sit, the box (plus a long leash) will help get the desired behavior in the desired way. I also like teaching differentiation between "get the cookie" and "turn and sit".

So that's something we're building up to. The toughest thing that has always haunted us is that Scorch turns his body when getting to the target; he prefers to eat the treat while facing sideways. I may have to set up stronger, tighter barriers to work with this. It was a huge problem in agility too.

Anyway. Scorch's dumbbell retrieve was beautiful today. No laying down when returning to me.

The dumbbell is really a bit too big for him, but he's retrieving it happily so we'll stick with it for now.

On the retrieve over the jump, we've hit some snags. He'll happily leap over the jump to get the dumbbell but tended to run around it on the way back, especially if I threw the dumbbell crooked (and if you know me, you know the likelihood of that happening in a trial is about 99.9999%). He's so pressure sensitive that running towards him to intercept was making him hesitant about the whole exercise. Interestingly enough, I talked it over with my training director at work. Now, he comes from a much more... let's say "traditional" mindset when it comes to training. He's the epitome of old school, seeing as he was a K9 handler in the military and law enforcement. I fought tooth and nail to get clicker training into our program at work, and he has really come around to it. We've had some great training discussions.

Anyway, we discussed the jumping problem and he suggested putting Scorch on a retractable lead. Brilliant!

We did a few retrieves without the jump to make sure Scorch was comfortable with the lead. Then we started doing some jump work. He was doing fine until I threw the dumbbell crooked. Scorch starts to veer, leash gets tight...

...Scorch corrects his path immediately!

The next crooked throw needed no correction, and we ended that particular exercise on a high note.

Please excuse my disgustingly overgrown lawn. Our mower broke, and now our weedwacker is leaking gas and oil everywhere. Ugh.

Anyway, Scorch is very space-sensitive; I find it interesting that a light collar pull or pop is much less aversive to him than body pressure.

Another issue we worked on is glove retrieve. He tends to be a bit lazy with holding the glove and lets it sort of hang on his tongue...

I reminded him to hold, put my hand under his chin... much better!

His fronts and finishes were nice today too.

We finished with some broad jump work and out of sight stays. On the broad jump, I think I'm just going to have to toss a cookie or toy about 1000 times to get his muscle memory locked in. I don't feel like his motivation or understanding is quite where I need it to be. We had a great session today... I think now that we have so many things we're working on, training has gotten a lot more exciting for both of us.

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