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.