Thursday, June 05, 2003

Tika's Progress--Or Not--

NADAC Trial Summary: Two weekends ago we did a NADAC trial. Six runs each day for each dog. Good exercise for me. It wasn't one of our most stellar weekends, however. Jake and I weren't clicking most of the time, although he was running quite fast. Latter is good because at times I've thought he's been slowing down a lot.

Contacts: Tika got all of her contacts beautifully except for one run on the second day. In that one, she launched off the teeter, which was the first contact obstacle. I think she doesn't know it's a teeter when she does that. I'm talking straight up into the air, hang time like Wile E. Coyote going over a cliff. But after that, she also flew off the Aframe, so I put her into a Down and took her off the field. She went back to getting all her contacts beautifully.

Start Line Stay: She stayed at the start line beautifully except for one run on the second day. It was a tunnelers run, too, more's the pity, because we seem to do whiz-bang on those courses. I put her into a Down, took a step forward, and she shot past me. I stopped, and I think she realized that, because she veered away from the obstacles and headed out diagonally across the course, slowing as she went. I stood quietly back where Ihad put her into the down and waited. She circled, came back to me, and I put her back into the Down. Led out a couple of tunnels. Gave her the signal. We then ran a beautiful course, but of course we'd have been way over time even without the Elimination for (I believe) training in the ring. But she didn't leave her start-stays early again that day.

Some Success: We did have it together enough to get one Open (intermediate) standard leg (qualifying score), and I think a Tunnelers leg and a Touch'N'Go?

But Those Big Nasty Feet: Grabbing my feet was the big issue for the weekend. She grabbed them every danged run, if nowhere else then at least at the end as I'd be trying to cross the finish line. Got several Es for her biting my feet. Some judges gave an immediate E as soon as she jumped in. Others gave her one chance and then Eed us the second time. As usual, she does it on course only when we've managed to miss an obstacle. I try to keep her moving, but often if we miss the correct obstacle, there's no easy path to any other obstacle and she knows it and in she comes, like a shark to blood.

I tried bitter apple on my shoes before the runs, but that didn't seem to faze her. What did seem to work is me simply freezing and ignoring her, refusing to play her game. Every other attempt to get her to stop or to lie down or to do turns or high fives or push her away all just get her more excited. Freezing apparently is boring enough that she stops very quickly and looks up at me, as in, "Huh? How come you stopped this fun behavior?" But I can't just start moving--I have to get her moving again first, or she comes right back in at me.

And at the end of the course I'm trying an immediate "Come/down"--I hate to shut her down, I'd rather celebrate, but she won't play or jump up with me, just grabs my feet. And I havent worked on teaching her to go out and look for her leash, which was one of Rachel's suggestions.

The John Rogerson seminar was interesting--in the middle of the class, he tossed out the line (while talking about over-excited dogs): "Teach a novice dog to run down a line of jumps by throwing a toy and I guarantee you'll have a dog that starts coming in to bite you in competition." If my ears could have stood up on end, they would have, as my ears are excellent at recognizing my image in a mirror. His later explanation was that the dog has to learn *control* completely and thoroughly before learning long, fast sequences. As in: "Over/down!" "Tunnel/sit!" "Over/come/behind!" or whatever. So since then, in the yard, I've been practicing more of short, turning sequences with control.

Gets Worse in Class: And in class this week, she spent every available moment running away and looking for squirrels, even though there were none to be seen and Rachel said there hadn't been any sign of the family for a week and a half. She learned it all too well the last couple of times we were there, apparently. So in class Rachel had us working on control--one or two obstacles, sometimes with a leash on, and "Come!" and reward. So the training is converging. Tika started the class by flying off the dogwalk and going In Search Of Squirrel; the next time she had a leash on and it got caught on something while she was going up (that's scary--we switched to a string for the rest of class), but apparently she took it to heart and did beautiful contacts for the rest of class. However, took every jump *away* from me to mean "keep going away from me to see whether there might be tree-climbing rodents around." Her "Come" was pretty nonexistent in those cases.

So much to do. Sigh.

Squirtez-vous and other surprises: I bought a squirt gun to get her to keep her nose away from the table. I've never seen her take anything off the table, but I've been pushing her nose away and saying "no" for over a year now (Jeez--hard to believe it's been that long!) and clearly it has had no effect whatsoever. Water squirted in her face seems to be having an effect, though. We'll see. Has been squirted more than half a dozen times, and has come back the next meal to sniff again, so I don't know whether it's so ingrained... but when she's squirted, she skeedaddles out the patio and watches me through the glass door.

I don't do or say anything in addition to the squirt--just keep reading the paper, sitting there quietly, subtly moving my hand to the squirt gun and squirting a little in her direction.

John had a suggestion about little poppers that you can put under something to teach dog not to take things off tables or counters, which you combine with a tremendous acting job of your own along the lines of "Omigod what was that, holy cow, is it safe in here?" He gave a web site to order the poppers from. I'm going to do that, because she *has* taken things off the coffee table or the garden tables out in the yard.

Goal of all of these things is to have the behavior discouraged without having the owner (me) yelling or hitting or anything else negative, and also to associate the negative experience with the behavior and not with my own actions or presence. We'll see---

Rem again: Actually, since Rem's been gone, I've had no problems with food being taken off the counters or with wastebaskets being emptied. I didn't think I would, either. He wasn't the perfect dogman, and I know it.

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