Saturday, February 25, 2012

Photo dump

I cleared some photos off of my cell phone, so here's what we've been up to lately:

I bought a new dumbbell. Actually, a couple... but I think I'm happiest with this one. It's lighter and smaller than any dumbbell Scorch has had before. It's a better fit, and I'm hoping that will help with some of his reluctance to come back over the jump.

Infinite patience with a work puppy.

Visit with his friend Tyson on our South Florida work trip. Tyson is one of the few large, male dogs that Scorch is comfortable with and has been from the start. It's probably because Shepherds are neurotic, just in a different way than Border Collies... but it's close enough that they understand each other.

Norman has been on his best behavior lately. He's decided to be a (relatively) normal, friendly, housebroken, sweetheart of a dog. But snuggling with Wolfie? That was the shock of the century.

Aaaaand that photo just sums up Scorch for me.

We've been working on some relaxation protocols that my trainers recommended, and today I feel like I really saw the benefits. I warmed Scorch up before teaching. I tossed the dumbbell repeatedly like Randy had recommended, and between throws did some quiet stroking like Bev and Lisa recommended. His vocalizations stayed low and he kept focused enough to give me very straight fronts.

My class contained one of the intact Goldens that Scorch loathes. I've been working Scorch around the dogs and he has improved, but hasn't been entirely comfortable. I brought Scorch out for a demo and while I was talking, had him in heel position in a sit. I was slowly stroking the side of his face and encouraged him to lean into me, like Bev recommended. Scorch nearly melted!!! I was so happy to see such a strong effect. He was still ready to work, but it took his anxiety levels down a notch. We're going to keep working on it, but I'm really happy with the progress I've been seeing! Maybe we'll beat those Open demons yet.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Training progress

It's been a busy time here in the House of Scorch, and updating this blog has not been high enough on the priority list.

Scorch and I have advanced from Beginner Utility class to Utility. It was a bit intimidating and I wasn't entirely sure we belonged there; I knew most of the other students had already taken the class and were even already competing at the Utility level.

Last week, we had our first class and Scorch showed us that he was more than ready. He's FINALLY nailing his go-outs and we can start focusing on the turn-and-sit. One of my coworkers is building me a sit-box to work on that (and to polish up his fronts). Directed jumping has improved, despite our lack of work on it. And his signals are going well (that's been one of the exercises I've easily been able to take "on the road").

What was interesting was that we lined all the dogs up in stand-stays and went down the line dropping them on a signal. When Scorch was the 2nd dog in line, he nailed it. On the way back, he was second-to-last and the wait time earned us a refusal. So that's a new thing to work on.

Tonight we're doing article in class, and I'm most looking forward to working that. He's been working a full, tied-down pile and the increased number of articles seemed to actually help him think. He's searching carefully instead of snatching-and-grabbing (or, lord help me, attempting to bring the whole board).

Of course there are two intact male dogs in class, and one is a Golden. He didn't realize it until we were leaving, and then he got all huffy. But he kept calm, and hopefully this will be helpful to him.

We also had a brief consult with a trainer last night at a meeting I was attending. We talked about Scorch's vocalization problems in Open, especially around the dumbbell and discussed strategies. He recommended doing several dumbbell throws in a row, of varying distances. I like the idea of making it less of a "rare event" and getting him thinking, rather than being overexcited. We did a couple of throws in downtown Ft. Myers and Scorch nailed it. The trainer said he thought I wouldn't have lost a single point on the exercise, and his conclusion (which I agree with) is that our biggest hurdle will be ring nerves. Scorch is a sensitive dog, and all my nervousness goes right down the leash. I had a feeling that was the problem, but it was nice to have him observe the same things from an outside perspective.

I also think I'm going to focus more on food training around the rings rather than tugging. I think tugging is getting him too riled. I'm still trying to find a play style that works in the ring, but for now, I'm going to concentrate on quiet, calm praise. It's no fun for either of us when he's barely under control, so it's time to take things down a notch.

I'm reading Control Unleashed (finally). I'm relieved to see that I'm doing several of the exercises; hoping to get some new tips out of it.