Fun with dogs

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Wow have I been ignoring my blog....

Sorry for the lateness in posting training updates.  I've been procrastinating quite a bit.  Probably due to the training issue we've been having lately, and the fact that I've worked 6 days a week for the past 3 weeks.  Very exhausting schedule.  So I'll fess up, stop procrastinating, and update my blog.

Harry Potter
So this has been my frustration.  I've talked about his grass eating issues before, but it seems like they'd been getting worse rather than better.  I was getting really frustrated, and admittedly pissed, that he'd rather eat grass than run agility.  Classes were becoming no fun for me, or for HP.  So my instructor took me aside after class and told me I had a choice.  I could be pissed and get nowhere, or I could sit down, come up with a plan, and take this whole thing as a challenge that I have to work through.   After thinking about it, I decided she was right.  So after some thought, I came up with a couple things:

  1. Find something REALLY rewarding.  HP had already shown me that he'd rather eat grass than have treats and rather eat grass than play tug so I had to come up with something SUPER motivating that could help his focus.
  2. Reward more often when we're working on grass.  HP has trained on dirt in an arena his whole life.  He's 5 now and we're just starting to train regularly on grass.  So I need to remember this is hard for him and that I need to up my rewards to help him keep his focus.
So, I started the toy hunt.  I ordered a babble ball as well as a Crunch-n-tug.  My thinking was that he has before shown a complete OCD attitude to the babble ball, to the point of me having to take it away.  It is a small ball that talks when you bump it or move it.  He ADORES it.  We also had a crunch-n-tug that a friend bought us that he liked a lot that got stolen at a show.  I highly recommend the crunch-n-tug for anyone who has an agility dog.  She makes them specifically for your dog, you pick the type of fur, squeeker, it has a pocket for a water bottle to crunch and she'll even put a bungee on the handle for tugging.  Awesome toy!

Well, we tried the babble ball in practice last week.  I was worried that it would be TOO exciting for him, causing him to knock jumps or bail on equipment.  I'm glad to say that after a run or two, he honed in and worked WONDERFULLY for the babble ball.  We could actually do sequences without any grass eating!  I was thrilled to find SOMETHING that worked, as well as pretty proud of myself to have worked it out.  Honestly, I don't even remember what we practiced as far as sequences go, I just remember that we were successful, and after the many weeks of grass eating, I was stoked. 

We have a "focus session" today working on contacts and weaves for the upcoming 4-day Memorial Day weekend trial here in town.  I've asked our instructor to do some serious distractions while weaving, as well as work on rear crosses into weaves.  I've needed a few of those at the past few trials, and I just don't trust them enough to chance them during a run.  I'll try to put up a report when we get home today.

Lexi's class this week was a great one.  Kathy worked hard, there were several stations set up for us to work on. 

  1. Jump chute - consists of 5 jumps in a straight line, 5-6 feet apart, with bars at 8 inches.  The idea is to get your dog striding correctly over the jumps, and to drive forward in front of you.  You set a target plate at one end, then take your dog to the other end.  They are supposed to drive over the line of jumps.  At first you should stand still after you release them and they should drive to the target, then gradually add in forward motion as they become more comfortable (in order of walk-jog-run, working both sides).  Jump height is not important, and they are supposed to be really low for this exercise.  If the dog has trouble driving over 5 jumps (Lexi cheated, jumped the first and ran out around to get the food) you can place the dog in the middle with two or three jumps and work up to 5.
  2. Lateral distance - Jump set up with three cones directly in line on each side of the jump, with approximately 2 feet between each cone:

                    X     X     X     |-----------|     X     X    X

    The idea is to set the dog up with the jump directly in front of them, you walk out to the cone, stand slightly forward of the jump and cue the dog to take the jump.  The dog should take the jump, then come into you.  You slowly work from the inner cones to the outer cones, increasing distance and adding difficulty.  Ideally, you should have 30 feet of lateral distance eventually, but as these were baby dogs, we were only working to about 12 feet max.
  3. Angled jumping - Jump set up with three cones angled away from each side of the jump, with approximately 2 feet between each cone:

                      X                                                 X
                            X                                     X
                                  X                         X

    You set the dog up at each cone, move around the jump so you are slightly ahead of the jump and directly in line with the dog and call the dog to you (for example if I have the dog set up on the cone on the right side of the jump, I walk up in front of and on the left side of the jump and call him to me).  You gradually move farther and farther out to get the dog used to jumping at an angle to the jump, rather than always just straight on.
  4. Teeter - teeter was set up with tables under each end so the dogs could work on it at approximately half height
  5. Dog walk - set up to practice contacts (2 on 2 off)
It was a great class, by the end Lexi was VERY mentally tired.  A lot of the other dogs were physically tired, at which point Kathy took a small break to talk to us about conditioning, how important it is, and how most people don't do enough of it.  My boxers rarely get tired, and I try to do as much conditioning as possible to help prevent injury.  But that's a topic for another blog.

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