Sunday, April 26, 2009

Sue H Obedience and Agility Seminar Weekend

Well its Monday afternoon and have had a totally action packed dog training seminar weekend. Seems hard to believe its all over as I had quite been looking forward to this weekend for a very long time. This blog post is a summary of the weekends seminar activities (and our lesson this morning with Sue).

Before I get into what was covered if I could summarize the main take home lesson I got from the entire seminar/weekend it would have to be "BE CONSISTENT". Its something I do struggle with and Sue certainly hammered it home yet again. If have a picture of what you consider the "perfect performance" of an exercise don't let your standards slip and reward anything less once the dog understands a particular exercise. Don't let the dog train you into reducing your criteria. Also the importance of positive proofing of the various exercises - which I don't do enough of.

Now to Friday afternoon - drove to the airport to collect Sue and we had a couple of hours to kill before the first Obedience seminar. We came home and had a bit of a chat and she was trying to get Kenzie to approach her. Miss Kenzie started out the weekend barely happy to spend any time in the same room as her. Not good but I knew we could work at it later. Ness was offering sits/drops/stands while we were seated at the table.

Friday nights seminar was an introduction to some of the basic obedience skills. It was great to hear so much of what I had done right with Kenzie in relation to training a pup. Especially making sure the dog was happy to play at different locations, and happy to focus on the handler off-lead because the handler was more rewarding to the dog then what else might be happening. Her suggestion for a new pup was to load the pup into the car drive to a location play for 30 seconds to a minute. Carry dog back to the car. Drive to a new location and repeat. Discussions on the 2 food game, the collar grab game, having the dog work switch from food to tug and vice versa, how to shape attention, how to teach solid stays using food to tempt the dog "steady feet". There was also a section stressing the importance of just playing with the dog minus any additional props such as toys/food etc.

Then there were a few demo dogs. Capturing attention and C/T for having the dog focus on the handler. River demoed the 2 food game. Of importance to my training was the cone game. I had tried it initially with both Ness and Kenzie after Sandi had mentioned it to Tash. Basically you set up two large traffic cones and walk around them in a figure 8, just treating the dog each step. It teaches the dog to walk with its head up as well as how to use its back end around the cone. Also obviously a good exercise for figure 8 work.

The other important demo which Sue did with Ness was teaching the dog to ignore a distraction i.e. food on the ground and instead offer targeting heel position. She would toss bits of food on the ground and work Ness around them and reward her for finding heel with more food in her hand. I was pretty impressed as I never imagined she would be able to heel around with food on the ground. Maybe there is hope for us yet.

Saturday was agility day - Low drive dogs in the morning, high drive dogs in the afternoon. Lots of common elements across the entire weekend. Particularly the importance of the collar-grab game/restrained recalls, lots of flatwork exercises. Discussion on 2o/2o contacts and the backchaining concept. "Steady-feet" game for Start Line Stays. Discussion on the value of proofing stays. Some of the SG One Jump exercises. Recall to heel (similar to the obedience exercise) aka Mary Ray finish but you have your feet apart one foot back and reward the dog in a stand rather than a sit. Do on both LHS and RHS. Table game - ask for a down position on table. Kenzie demoed some 2x2 weaving and I was pretty chuffed considering she wasn't entirely keen on Sue and also the fact that there was a tunnel sort of in the way. She managed to nail 4 poles in a straight line at a new venue :) without shutting down too much. Talked about contact performance and establishing criteria and then ensuring independant obstacle performance. I think at the minute I'll be doing a 2o/2o on all of the contact equipment with her.

Sat evening we spent chatting/having tea and worked on getting Kenzie to approach Sue. We got to the point where Kenzie would put her paws up on Sue and target her target stick or offer a hand touch :).

Sunday morning - Tash and I were fortunate enough to get some training time with Sue. Tash worked with Riv on DOR and Sue introduced the concept of speed trials to improve the rate Riv dropped. Can also work for sits and stands. Basically you settle on the criteria for performance/signal that you wish to put in place. Initially you give the signal and might allow a 2 second time delay in which the dog has to perform the behavior, if the dog fails then you withdraw your attention and start again, if they are successful they get a C/T. After a few trials you then reduce the latency allowed from 2 seconds to 1 second. They did some work on heeling and having another person walk close to the dog while heeling to proof heeling. C/Ting as the second person approached the dog.

Kenzie's session consisted of working on stands (I just haven't been able to fade my shitty lured hand signal to anything decent). Sue had me work alongside a barrier (in this case Tash's bag), but she said to make sure I changed what I was using for the barrier as much as possible. I would give the new verbal command "stand" then a short delay then my shitty lured hand signal and C/T. Need to keep doing that and then attach a new hand signal. Between each repetition I am to break her off and play before starting again. Sue also did some work on having Kenzie sit at heel and then having me click and rewarding when she approached her. She suggested that Kenzie clearly was more tug driven then food driven so instead of using a food reward to release her to play tug. Even if that involved clicking and then running away to a distance where she was happy to tug. I got a slap over the wrist for not having conditioned the tug with a clicker but when I tried it she happily took the tug so Sue said I was extremely lucky to have a dog who didn't then look for the food.

We did some metal article work. There is a definite mental block when the articles is nearly on the ground. Sue gave me a few suggestions to try including placing it on a cushion, blanket etc and seeing if that works. She also suggested I might get to the point where I just had to find somewhere really boring, place article on the ground and wait her out. I need to introduce the collar grab game here and work at it so that hopefully her response when I release her collar is to snatch at the article. I asked about the supersitious paw up response and her standing when she returns with the article and Sue said to keep cueing the sit and eventually I wouldn't need to cue it. She mentioned pairing sight of the object with a favourite toy and I said that I had already attempted that in the past.

We did some collar grab toy retrieves. Think Sue just wanted me to go for a run on the oval at this point. She would have me sprint off in the opposite direction as soon as she had grabbed teh toy. Also did the 2 toy game with her. I need to make sure she doesn't do it quite so formally - so encourage a stand rather than the sit with the collar grab.

Heelwork next. Starting out on a left circle. Kenzie is clearly pushing me and walking into me so I need to go back and work the cone game for a few nights to improve her rear end awareness before coming back to the circle work. We did a version of the cone game using bags. It was interesting as initially when I attempted the exercise when I was focussing on K I was still letting her dictate the circle. K switched off a bit so Sue had me tie her up and get Ness out and play with Ness. I then got K back and Sue just had me walk the line and if K joined in I was to C/T. She eventually did offer going back to heel position and moving in around the bag so I would C/T her.

In terms of duration heelwork Sue suggested I need to build up to 6 minutes of focused attention. She suggested doing this for a period of a month. If you are intending on working on that its all you work for the month. So you would have 3 nights of duration heelwork, 2 nights of doodling heelwork.

Sue also said I need to introduce distractions early. So have lots of different tuggies/toys on me and then when we had finished with one, drop it on the floor and continue working and then pull out another one from somewhere else. I do a bit of this at home already with her 2x2 weaving.

I asked about my weaving hassle wherebut she will stall out and demand bark at me if I push her to do 6 poles. Sue's comment was to call her back and get her to hand touch (Rewarding the hand touches with food, since she is more toy driven) and then asking again and if she gets it right throwing the toy.

Sue also said if both Riv and Kenzie enjoy playing with each other then we could use that as a reward. Both train and then let them play.

Keep the sessions extremely short and go back to 30 second sessions with her. Only working on one exercise then putting her away. She also recommended crating over tying the dog up. Guess we do get a bit slack with that when we are training ourselves.

Sunday afternoon was back to West Beach for the second obedience seminar. Sue first answered any questions people may have had after Friday night.

Covered in detail teaching a stand for exam. The steps included playing the "steady feet" game. Starting in a sit and rewarding for feet still. Making sure the handler was able to straddle the dog and have it remain still. Then progressing to the stand, straddling the dog in a stand. Having the handler do a light examination. Then having the handler do a more thorough examination. Only introducing the actual examination part when the dog was doing a reliable rock solid stand with focus on the handler. I think I'll be able to get one on Kenzie eventually so long as I don't rush things with her.

She then demonstrated shaping the box. Relatively simple and pretty much the way I trained Kenzie although I lured a few times (naughty of me).

The final section was on ring wise dogs/duration heelwork. Sue had me demo this section with Ness. It was basically the questions I had asked her before she came over. First up we did some duration heelwork. I had mentioned in the car on the way to the seminar that I knew I had to attempt it with Ness but I got frustrated as she didn't get to the level I wanted. Sue's advice was never mind the fact she is a UD dog but start at a really simple point where she won't fail so 5 steps (for example). Her advice was also to write down on paper before I went out for a session how many steps I was intending on doing so I didn't cheat. The idea is to divide her meal up into 3 and repeat three times and thats the entire session. I didn't get a chance to ask about Kenzie and considering she is more toy driven and likely to not take food. My guess is that I substitute the toy for the food so after she has completed it we have a game (until her food drive matches her toy drive). I will work at pairing them more but I have found since she was spayed that she has a much better appetite.

Initially I had food in my hand and was rewarding whenever Sue clicked. Sue mentioned the progression of food in hand, to food in right hand to food in left pocket to food in back pocket. I am guilty of mainly having the food in my left pocket. I also thought Ness was going to switch off on me. She sneezed during the heeling and I gave her a NRM because she dropped her head. Matter of habit. Sue and Sandi apparently allow sneezing. We progressed on to having three people standing around holding jackpot containers. Sue wanted to demonstrate how you could move to having the reward off the person. Meanie made me hand over my entire pocket of food. We then continued to heel and Sue would click and have me run to one of the people and reward. I got ribbed for only running to the closest container.

Then she had me so that we basically were introducing a cue to Ness of me showing her my empty hands wasn't a signal that no rewards were available. So I would give her the cue set her up in heel, heel off one or two paces and Sue would click and I would run to a person and reward from the container.

We finished up with working changes of pace in a circle and clicking every couple of steps for the dog maintaining position. Starting at slow pace and gradually picking up speed until I was going at fast pace.

Any way that is the weekends seminar report. Last night we just had tea at home and a bit of a chat about other things not training related.

Deposited Sue safely at the airport first thing this morning. She did mention in the car on the way that I should make myself a board for contact training and get started on teaching a 2o/2o with Kenzie so thats on the list of things to attempt.

After dropping my parents at the airport at lunchtime (busy day for airport transfers LOL) I came home and played the figure 8 cone feeding game with both kids, twice each. I then did some stands with Kenzie using the esky on the front verandah as a barrier. She went from her shitty stand hand signal yesterday to me dropping the signal almost immediately and being 100% reliable with a verbal only and then from that to introducing a new improved hand signal within half a dozen repetitions. Now I need to introduce it on the move. Might try that tonight if I don't head out to CBS or even if I do.

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