Archive for March, 2011

2 minute dog trainer – what we’re learning 12-13mo.

March 25, 2011

Tempest is 95% reliable on contacts (a-frame and dogwalk) when alone in the training building, in our intermediate class, or at class in a second location.

When he’s in advanced class his reliability rate on the big/long dogwalk drops to about 75%.  I’m convinced this drop in reliability is a function of my lack of supportive movement.

He’s 5-10 feet ahead of me, driving for his contact, and I’m racing to catch up. My forward drive comes into view for him as he approaches the contact zone, and he feeds off of it. This is a matter for proofing.

I want to work on 3 dogwalk performances which will help him settle into his job on that obstacle. 

First, lateral distance, or increasing my distance away from the dogwalk.  This will provide him with an opportunity to take some responsibility for managing his performance, and remove me laterally from the picture.

Second, call across the dogwalk, or an ever-increasing lead out which puts me ahead of him.  This will provide him with an opportunity to take some responsibility for mounting the dogwalk. He sometimes gives it a pass and I have no intention of managing the mount and the dismount at the same time.

Third, combining the lateral distance and the lead out, teaching him the name of the obstacle and to love performing it. This will become a mealtime activity, no doubt, since Tempest loves his food.

Tempest is 95% reliable on weaves (12 in-line, upright) when alone in the training building, in our intermediate class, or at class in a second location.

When the weaves are in an advanced sequence his reliability drops to about 80%, again due to my movement and the general air of excitement.

Another element which I’m taking into account is Tempest’s  age and his stamina.  I’m often involving him in 3 consecutive nights of training now.

Tuesday night he sometimes joins the intermediate class if it’s small.  Wednesday night he’s in an intermediate class at another location.  Thursday night is advanced class at our place. 

The drop in performance percentages takes place on the third night of class, and may be due to mental fatique (on both our parts).

Tempest’s youth also plays a part in this, and I know he’s going to build consistency and staying power over time. He’s 12-1/2 months old right now and he SHOULD be something of a mess. <g>

Our greatest weaknesses are:   1) long, strung-out jump sequences,   2) tunnels (weird, huh?),  and  3) obedience-for-agility (including start-line stays, and the down on the pause table).

Yesterday I started working on getting Tempest to take some ownership of the pinwheel. We use the exploding pinwheel exercise, originally shown us by Patty Hatfield Mah years ago in Florida.

Interestingly enough, Tempest caught on to the counter-clockwise pinwheel almost immediately.  The clockwise pinwheel gives him fits.

I’m going to keep working the pinwheel as well as the pre-cued front cross for intricate jump work. We’re in elementary school on both of these skills and won’t graduate for months.

With tunnels, Tempest absolutely requires my movement to ensure a good tunnel entrance. What I’m trying to teach him is “go into the tunnel I’m looking at.”  This is going to take some time and patience on my part, and some spinning and staring on his part. But I’m convinced he’ll eventually get it when he settles down.

In the meantime, if I am running toward a tunnel he’ll take it 100% of the time.  If I slow down and try to send, he stops, spins, slams sideways into it, guesses what I want, stops, second guesses, stares at me, etc. Lots to work on there.

Obedience-for-agility — what can I say — I haven’t done the foundation work and I’m getting what I paid for.

I know better than to put a bandaid on a lackluster behavior. But something in me senses that he’s being disobedient because of excitement and anticipation, not due to a desire to be disobedient.

So conditioning, conditioning, conditioning — and practicing in lots of places, under lots of conditions.

I videotaped his performance in his Wednesday night (off-site) class.  His obedience-for-agility was much improved as his confidence level diminished.  Interesting …..

This weekend I’m off to Medina, OH, for a TDAA trial with Hazard.  I’ve asked permission to bring Tempest as a ride-along, and permission has been granted by all parties.  We’ll be working on pottying on demand in strange places.

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2-minute dog trainer – I’m Back!

March 7, 2011

It’s been a busy month and I’m going to try to fill in some blanks in how Tempest’s training has progressed.

He turns one year old next weekend. I’ve spent some time this past week watching video of him at 8 weeks. I had watched the litter from afar for 8 weeks.

Getting pick of the litter was a fascinating and fun experience after many years of adopting rescues and other people’s cast-offs.

Tempest was my birthday present. I contacted the breeder on my birthday, and Tempest was born 3 days later. He was born to be mine, so to speak. <g>

As I watched those puppies mature I created a list in my head of what I wanted in my puppy.

Drive — that is, an interest in playing the game with me, regardless of whether the game was agility, rally, herding, or tracking.  I wasn’t looking for over-the-top drive since I’m 55. Just a dog that’s happy to accompany me to the start line, and one that enjoys the activities and crowds surrounding dog sports.

Tempest loves doing agility with me, and puts up with obedience training even while other dogs are doing agility beside him. He chases and herds Kory, his half-brother, mercilessly.  He delights in being by my side.

Biddability — obedience in all it’s forms including formal obedience and house manners. I didn’t want an obsessive-compulsive activity addict. I wanted a pup who could stand beside me as I teach basic obedience or agility, interested in the activities but not acting like a nut, yanking at the leash, focused on other dogs.

Tempest can stand beside me for hours, watching other dogs do agility. He’s fascinated with the border collies, and only really gets overly excited when his brother runs. He’s an ambassador of his breed, kind and friendly with other dogs, eager to get attention and treats from other people, but always returning to me, his partner.

Level-headedness — tough to describe, but I knew it when I saw it.  I wanted a pup who could have his toy stolen by another dog without begrudging it or going on the attack. I wanted a pup who stood up for himself without being shy or fearful.

Tempest has been approached by nice dogs and not-so-nice dogs. His reaction is always the same. He lowers his head, stands his ground, and is left alone.  He’s not an aggressor, nor is he a bully’s victim.

So I’ve got the dog of my dreams.  And then life took an interesting twist.  When Tempest was 5 to 9 months of age, I was involved in a horrible job which left me little time to train, physically and emotionally drained.

When he turned 9 months old I freed myself of that job. Bud and I began running TDAA (formerly run by 6-7 volunteer board members).  We started basically from scratch, bringing the jobs of the volunteers here to Ohio, learning the processes, streamlining where we could, and improving what we felt needed improving.

Since that magical moment TDAA has become our Job One — our life’s work — our contribution to the agility community. We’re delighted to be serving Teacup agility enthusiasts.

My training time with Tempest has taken another back seat, though I continue my 2-minute-dog-training sessions, teaching little lessons before breakfast and dinner.

Tempest’s heeling lessons all take place at mealtime.  And he’s learned a pretty nice recall and sit-in-front. I need to get him out in the world with these lessons so he doesn’t think all heeling is done in the basement.

He sticks nearly all his contacts, only losing self-control if a tunnel is nearby and directly ahead. He’s more excited about tunnels than jumps, but I’m shifting his emphasis and he’s picking up quickly.

He’s eagerly learning to weave, having been introduced to weaving just about 3 weeks ago. Bud’s got us doing some distance work, including “go on” — a send down a line of 3 jumps.

Now, as Tempest turns 1 year old, our trial-prep training begins.  He’s eligible for trialing in about 3 months, but I’m holding him back until late summer, with a mid-September trial goal.

I’m going to continue working contacts for breakfast, but I’m also going to work the 2-by-2-weaves for dinner.

I want Tempest to do 2-3 weeks of the “exploding pinwheel” exercise. I want to continue his “go on” exercises, especially with a double or triple as the last jump (why do judges always want to put the finish line on the triple?).

As the weather clears I want to get him doing work in more distracting areas — local parks can easily accommodate a 10-minute training session with 2 weavepoles and a jump.  I don’t expect him to succumb to distraction much. He really likes agility.

I want him to get the hang of running with me. That’s probably going to be our toughest lesson as he likes to cut across my path and head for tunnels.

I’ll start journaling more consistently.

With regards to TDAA, Bud and I have set ourselves on a timeline which has exhibitors’ title certificates (as electronic pdfs) arriving within 7-10 days of completing the requirements for that title.

We’re learning the database management, and becoming proficient on searches and entries. I’m keeping up-to-date on requests for dog registration forms and jump height certificates. We’ve cut the time a handler waits for a dog registration form from 2-3 months to 1-2 weeks.

It’s a full time job for both of us and we’re loving the challenges we face. It’s fun to learn the new skills, and find ways to more completely meet the expectations of our host clubs and exhibitors.