a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: Tika's Tuesday Training

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Tika's Tuesday Training

Not only do I have a lot of work to do with the puppy, and work on known agility issues with Tika, but when I got together with Nancy G. yesterday to talk about contacts primarily--
  • Tika wouldn't play with me much at all, only with tremendous effort on my part and then only half-heartedly.
  • Tika wouldn't stay in a sit for me to lead out to the start line
  • When Nancy tried a sit-stay with her to demonstrate technique, Tika acted as if she'd never encountered the concept before.
  • After an obstacle release, she'd run off after something and not come back immediately when I called her.
  • When with me and I was trying to reward her or pay attention to Nancy or whatever, she'd immediately turn her head and go off in search of something interesting to do.
All issues that I know about, and a couple of which were on my list for Nancy to help with, but I just wasn't thinking about dealing with them right now, and I wasn't thinking that they were that bad.

Freedom to do what?We did pass one test with flying colors. During the whole session, Nancy kept asking questions like, "Does she have a reliable sit at the start line?" And I'd provide answers like, "Uh, yes, well, kind of, well, usually, well, OK, I guess that means no it's not reliable, but it's pretty good except sometimes she stands up and takes a step forward." I was so glad when we got to "Does she understand her release word?" and I could comfortably and immediately say "Yes!" So I put her in a sit at my side and without moving or twitching or looking at her, I firmly said "OK!" and Tika immediately got up and moved off--towards Nancy, who had food in her hand. Nancy I think was somewhat amused that Tika understood so well that she knew when it was OK to go off scrounging.

However, of course, Rachel and Susan Garrett and others all point out that the release shouldn't necessarily be for the dog to leave you, just to release it from its current behavior, and for best results the dog should check in with you, even excitedly, to see what's going to happen next. Nancy didn't say that, but I was thinking it.

Anyway, we did take a look at her up contacts and a little on her down contacts, but spent most of our time on basics!

Who's my trainer? Nancy was concerned about taking me for a session (or more) because I guess she thinks of me as Rachel's student. Yes, we trained with Rachel from day 1 until she moved out of town. And Rachel could've helped me with these things, too, and would've if I'd asked. But Rachel's been gone 7 months now, I've been down to see her once for a session, and it's a 2-plus-hour trip each way. I just don't have that kind of time and energy in my routine.

And Nancy's a fine trainer, too. It's a weird thing because it's good to have continuity in your training--you don't want to confuse yourself or your dog by switching methods or strategies every month--but it's also good to have a fresh perspective, a different eye, the benefit of a different set of experiences and expertises. Rachel will always be my trainer. I'll always enjoy going down to see her and getting assistance. But Power Paws have never stopped being my trainers, either, at least in my eye.

The Training Notes

Herewith my notes for the day:
(Note: Italic is text I added after sending confirmation email to Nancy.)
Up contacts (dogwalk only)
  • On straight-on tests, she missed the contact about 4 out of 6 pre-pipe, with one a near miss--got one foot in at bottom and one foot barely in at top, which judges might miss.
  • Can put powder (talcum etc) on up contact to see where she places her feet, or make sure her feet get wet on the way up, etc. This is important if we're trying to change her stride.
  • In competition, try to propel her slightly ahead of me onto and across dogwalk rather than being way ahead of her (right?).
  • Possible solutions include:
    - putting a pipe, board, etc. on the dogwalk to force her to shorten her stride (currently she mostly adjusted stride to go over it, so try larger one like 4" speed bump or 4x4). We'll go for this pre-Nationals and then decide what to do longer-term afterwards.
    (Eventually can paint it the color of the board to start fading it or make it less obvious)
    - placing bar/etc. on ground in front of dogwalk to get her to change stride
    - using plain board or clicker board & teach her to run across it
  • could use a ground board with bump(s) on it & teach her to run those smoothly so she's not trying so hard to propel across the bump on the up.

    Down contacts
  • During tests, was not speedy but accurate on 2-on/2-off.
  • Need to focus on rewarding first hit at bottom rather than asking for it again and then rewarding (although can also reward additional ones if i want)
  • Consider not asking for nose-touch at all for her, just reward asap
  • In competition, try not to stop behind her on down contact, keep pushing.
  • When she's doing obstacle, offer verbal encouragement and excitement.
  • In class make sure I do random rewards (but not too few or she may lose focus) and sometimes do an entire run w/out rewards on contacts.
  • If I'm giving "touch" command, make sure I do it way before she gets there (jeez, I always think I am, but who knows what I do in real life).
  • Practice doing contacts fast, particularly backchaining:
    - Learn to have her leap/run onto down contact (for backchaining) and go straight to end of board instead of having her wait or stop on the board.
    - Make sure I vary where I stand in relation to her during backchaining.
    - Make sure she starts in different places during backchaining.
    - Go back to ground board, get her blasting across that to 2on/2off.
  • Re: rewarding a slow contact--if I withhold too many, she's more likely to lose interest rather than figure out that she needs to go faster.
  • This means I have to set up my dogwalk again. Sigh. There goes 36 feet of my yard again. >>sigh<<
  • Goals in working on backchaining are both to focus on understanding the race to the finish and on not exhausting or boring her by doing the dogwalk every time.

    Sit stay (and same for down)
  • Go back to basic proofing and rewarding.
  • Wait for duration to reward, not immediately on plopping butt down, especially if she's moved.
  • *No* movement of feet.
  • Use verbal reminder (some uh-oh noise but not The Dread Ahhhhhhh) the instant she moves.
  • Try to wait for her to fix herself rather than repositioning her.
  • Consider using a separate Stay command.
  • If I repeat a command (e.g., sit) that should mean to her that she'd better try again--move in some way to try to correct her position

    Positioning on either side of me
  • Need to get back to working on commands for lining up on either side of me, particularly for sit at start line, also for snooker etc.

  • Work on getting her to play with me anywhere, any time, for any duration.
  • Less talking to her?
  • Make a list of places where she won't play with me.
  • Start small, a second or two, and reward, and work up to longer times.
  • Could use clicker and treat as reward.
  • Try keeping me and toy lower, play around her feet, trip her with it, like that.
  • Reminder to not feed from tug'n'treat.

  • Rewards for sticking around and looking at me.
  • Try to keep hands off.
  • Try working around class and at trials and at home without handling her.
  • Use verbal uh-oh noises if she wanders off; try to let her correct herself into coming back.
  • Need to work on this in different places & distractions, too.

  • Continue rewarding when she comes.
  • If I think she's going to make a break for it, keep string or something less obvious than leash (?) on her to hold if needed.
  • Just practice more with various distractions.

    Around the house
  • Need a clear place where I can send her and she has to remain--open crate, bed, etc. (rug I've occasionally been trying to use probably isn't obvious enough, I'm realizing).

    Notes after training plus regular class, following: Seems to me that Tika was already getting much better at her sit-stays and down-stays and attention on me, just after the small amount of work in Nancy's presence, her reminders and pointers on my technique, and more practice in my remaining hour of regular class.
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