a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: Boost Classes

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Boost Classes

I'm trying to settle in on a class for Boost. There are so many good trainers around here. But our Saturday class with Lisa, an excellent trainer, wasn't giving us enough class time (even though half her siblings were in that class off and on: Derby, Caena, and Becka. Have had one session with one of Tania's classes, which was very helpful, and I was planning on finishing up one session, but it's been rained out (Tuesday seems to be The Rainy Day for this year) and I'm not sure whether that'll work.

Met with Nancy at Power Paws last Wednesday to see where we'd fit in their "puppy class" that's been meeting for 5 months now while we mostly trained on our own and those occasional Saturdays. Her evaluation: We're ahead on weave poles (yay!), a wee bit behind on jumping comprehension, and quite a bit behind on clicker work leading into contacts. But they're not yet doing contacts, still (I believe) working on backchaining from the end of the boards. I'd like very much to be in a class with Nancy--and Bette (Boost's sister) is in that class.

On Thursday, we went just to watch the class and see whether we thought we'd fit in. The biting wind froze my extremities and we didn't stay for the whole class, but we watched their basic obedience work and their basic jump work and I think that the class is really right about where we need to be. Being in a group always motivates me to achieve more, too, so it'll be good to be in a regular class situation. (Witness how a classmate getting the weave poles got me moving to Just Do It with Boostie.)

Regular--hah!--we'll join them next Thursday for the first time as part of the class (assuming it doesn't rain: This March has now tied the record for the March with the most rainy days, and if it rains again today, it'll set the new record for San Jose). But the following week is the "Haute TRACS" combined 4-day trial, so we'll all be off in Woodland or Dixon or some such place on Thursday and Friday trying to qualify for the Nationals in the DAM tournament. And the week after that is Power Paws camp; although I couldn't manage to go this year, Power Paws will all be there.

But what a surprise to walk in on Thursday and discover not only Mary with Bette, and the lady from Tika's Wednesday night class (with her young dog) who's been trying to get me to sign up for this Thursday class, but also two or 3 other people from what had been Tika's Tuesday daytime class with their young dogs...So I think I knew everyone or almost everyone in class. (Don't know why that should surprise me exactly, except that in the last 2 classes Tika's been in, half the people I didn't know.)

Exercises to Work On

In any event, we got tons of tips of things to work on with due diligence.
  • Eye contact! Particularly when releasing from sit-stay.
  • No circle zone: For Border Collies, avoid anything that gets them circling, either spinning or wide circles around outside of jumps that they're supposed to be taking, etc.
  • Jumping 1, facing dog: Set dog facing the jump straight on. Face her on opposite side. Release. Goal is that she'll take obstacles in front of her. Vary distance and angle (of me and or her across jump). Toy (or food) in front of the jump, not in front of me or way out past the jump.
    Note: Food might be quicker because you don't have to play with toy each time.
  • Jumping 2, back to dog: Set dog facing the jump straight on. Stand past the jump with my back to her (but remember eye contact). Release. Toyin front of jump. Vary distance past jump and distance away from jump laterally as well as angle.
  • Jumping 3, pinwheel: Pinwheel w/out using arm or bending shoulders or having to give command every time. Both directions. (And from class on Thursday--try front crossing last jump, try threadle from 4 to 2.)
  • Jumping 4, 180 turns: Start with jumps pretty close to each other. (Similar to pinwheel but w/out intervening jump: Turn body but shouldn't have to direct to jump or bend shoulders.)
  • Weaves: Work on focus forward and head down, whatever works. Put toy out in front, or toss or reward toy out in front & immediately when done, shorter sets of weaves so reward is quicker, and so on. If she skips poles, just keep her driving forward, or if I must start her over, don't bring her in a circle around me (no-circle zone).
  • Nose touches: Insist on firm hard press, no swiping, no gentle pressing. Don't be so quick to click any related behavior, be sure it's what I want. Same with hand touches.
  • Contacts: Work on board on the ground or end of dogwalk or whatever, getting to do nose touch.
  • Sit position: Work on shaping with clicker to clean up her Close (left) and Here (right).

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