Monthly Archives: February 2012

Wordless Wednesday

Kona has something to say

3 days to go

to CKOC and I’ve done no Rally work. Eeek! It doesn’t look like I’ll be doing any tonight either as we’ve hardly been home. At least Kona has a class tomorrow night and he’s on-leash so a little bit of a walk before the trial and I’ll have good focus. CB however, nothing since last week.

We’ve been busy with Agility – it’s so much fun and we’re both getting so much better. We had a positive handling seminar on the weekend with Shannen Jorgensen and then class last night. Shannen is really great and has been so much help in getting CB motivated. I’m really shocked at where we are now considering the first class with her we were on-leash and I had to walk him right up to the obstacle for him to take it.

Fingers crossed for Friday and here’s hoping that there’s no Offset Figure 8.

A Different Perspective

Is sometimes a very good thing. With the CKOC show coming up next week I thought I’d get CB out to drop-in Rally class the other night to see where we are since we’ve been so focused on Agility the last couple of months. Kona has been enrolled in Rally classes and he’s definitely ready for Novice A next week. I checked out a to a new place and was expecting to just do a course run but as there were only two of us I had a really good opportunity to problem solve with the instructor. I have to admit if I take him for a good long walk and make it fun with direction changes and obstacles I get great focus, but I usually don’t have time to do that before a class and I don’t before early morning trials which is when we’ve done poorer.

The Advance exercise we really need work on is the Off-set figure 8. Both times we’ve come across it in a trial we’ve NQ’d, although the second encounter was much less worse than the first. The first was with toys and there was no way he was doing anything other than teaching that toy a lesson for being on the floor – sigh. The second time was with food dishes and even though I eventually got him past the dishes, he ended up so distracted in the ring that I totally lost his focus. It also didn’t help that the ring was used for conformation the day before and I know CB was not the only dog sniffing around and not really into it. The Offset figure 8, Back-up 3 steps, and the Honor are what we need to get more polished before I enter us in Excellent.

So I think my approach to the Offset figure 8 hasn’t been the best for how easily distracted he is. I’ve essentially set up the exercise, have gone around the cones past the food/toys on leash and used lure to keep his attention. I have trouble getting him past the distraction the first time, but then the 2nd/3rd etc. pass by are not a problem. It’s that first go that I lose focus on and we can’t redo exercises in the Excellent class. I see from last night we need to do something different and go at this by focusing on keeping his attention through distractions (either food-toy-environment). I got some great suggestions from the instructor and we started with:

1 – walking past a toy at a distance and rewarding him for looking at me, then we got closer and continued to reward. By the time we walked past the toy close enough to where he could grab it, he did nothing but look at me.

2 – walked around the training room, and the instructor randomly would drop a toy near CB and I would reward him for looking at me and ignoring the toy. When we were done let him play with the toy. *

3 – put out a food dish with some smelly treats, did the same as 1. Then took out one of the treats, walked past that same as before, rewarded him for leaving it, focusing on me, then eventually let him have the treat.

4 – next we walked around the training room and she walked right beside us distracting him with a cookie and I rewarded him every time he looked at me and not at the cookie. **

After working on these four steps a few times and keeping good focus, the next step would be to heel him past multiple distractions and to then work-up to a mine-field of toys/food and all the while having him focus on me.  Won’t be at this point by next week but we’ll have something to work towards over the next few months.

For the Honor she suggested a similar approach. For some reason CB will stay put when I put him in a stay and walk away. As long as I keep moving he will stay. I can leave the room, get out of sight, come back in sight, walk in circles around him from more than 20 feet away. He will stay. But at the end of that 6 foot leash – he just seems to either get bored or stressed. The picture below documents a common occurrence.

Essentially we need to go back to basics and reward him for staying put at short distances and short time periods and then work up to ignoring the distractions while I am still. Putting out a cookie/toy and having him stay, reward for the stay and to work at an amount of time that is achievable to make it positive. This really nicely ties in to the distraction training for the Offset figure 8 with the final outcome having him in a stay and then recalling him past all the distractions.

Back-up 3 steps I taught him this the same way I taught him to Pivot Left by using bait and then getting him to move backwards beside me, but even after several months of this I can’t get him to do it without bait. What do you know, instead of what I have been doing she suggested that we take it back a step and teach him to walk backwards away from me. We were set up to face each other and then I walked towards him making him walk backwards to avoid me and reward the behavior.*** At first he sat and would jump back out of the way but after a couple of try’s I got him walking backwards. Now we can move on to having him beside me. To teach the back-up in a straight line we will start with him between myself and a wall so that he can’t turn and is forced to stay in heel position. I’m feeling pretty good about these three areas now and I’m pretty positive that we’ll be ready for Excellent trials before my target goal of July.

In the end it’s up to me to make sure we have some time to work on these skills. It does get harder this time of year as I like to work outside and the day’s just end too fast. If anyone has had success with other techniques I’d be interested some other suggestions, especially on the Offset Figure 8.

* I have to admit that I’m not very good at playing with him after a training session but I started doing that a few weeks ago.
** I also think this type of distraction training will help keep his focus in Agility since I think one of the reasons we are slow over distances is that he spends a lot of time looking around and sniffing where food has been on the floor. A fix one fix all kind of thing.
*** What’s funny is Kona and I play a game where I walk forward and he walks backwards and then I walk backwards and he walks forward towards me and we do it several times over. He finds it ridiculously fun and it’s how I taught him to come towards me for the Call Front 1, 2, 3 Steps Backwards. Almost too funny that I only just realized that I set him up for the Back-up 3 steps.

Some progress

Last nights Agility class went very well. I have to admit I go back and forth from really enjoying the sport to being really frustrated. I know the frustration comes from the disconnect between hearing the instruction for that days handling exercise and my body not executing it the way I mean to. This is all still pretty new to me and I can really see that CB is unsure of what to do when I’m thinking about the steps I was instructed to do.

Last night was a good turning point. I’m starting to understand the crosses even though I’m still a little clumsy but the most exciting part was that CB took jumps, the A-frame and the hoop from my right side. I did do some practice during the week during walks with CB sending him up, over, onto any obstacle I could find from my right side and it seemed to make a difference. Maybe also just the fact that I noticed it made a difference.

Here is a map I put together of part of the course we did. I removed a few obstacles because I want to focus on the things we did really well and look at a couple of areas that we can work on for next time.

Moving from 1 to 3 – I’m so impressed on how that went. CB is really good at taking tunnels from anywhere and he was really eager to take the jumps without me having to walk him to jump 2.

5 thru 7 –  I picked him at the end of the tunnel and got him over both jumps. We did lose a lot of speed going from 7 to 8 so we need to work on speed over distances.

8 to 10 – I managed to get him from my left to right side (near the **) and up over the A-frame from my right – and with some speed too.  But then we choked at the chute. He won’t go thru if it’s closed so something else that needs work.

12 to 13 – Uh oh, big handler error. He did good with the guides through the weaves but I blew it  heading over to the dog walk. We had some speed coming out of the weaves but my path had us too south of the dog walk and he just followed me and missed it. The red lines show my and CB’s paths. Ooops!

We did finish well and CB even got a case of the zoomies when the run was over. In all the improvement over last week was noticeable. My plan over the next week is to continue to work on sends from my right side.

Every day is a good day for a walk

Today was a great day for a walk, and because it’s Family Day here in Alberta it was a good day to get out and enjoy the sun. We’ve been having the most gentle winter and have been able to spend a lot of time outside, which is great since walking is one of my favorite things to do. For the next three weeks we have a little pom house guest. Meet Bubbles. So cute.

Bubbles is a little timid with new people and has not been on a harness/leash before today. Since the “walk” is our main form of focus and exercise, we can’t very well leave Bubbles at home alone while we’re out with CB and Kona. Not that I’m all that experienced having trained only two dogs to walk on a loose leash before, but I did find Bubbles to be very easy to get walking with me. Probably helps that she’s been following us around the house.

I did the same with her as we did with Kona and put her on a harness and attached her to a hands-free leash. I really like using the hands-free and was taught to use it for walks in one of the training classes I took (although with a martingale collar which is what I would use for a bigger dog). Using the hands-free keeps your weight centered – the technique is simple as you just walk and if the dog gets ahead of you, you either change direction (left-right-180) or use a hip twist to correct a forging dog. If the dog lags or gets distracted your forward momentum (maybe a quick step) reminds them you are still there. With subsequent sessions I should be able to adjust her position to be beside me. I know I could also use lure/bait to teach positioning, which can be quicker but because Bubbles is going to be shown in conformation I want her to be looking forward and not with her head bent looking up at where the bait would be. I’ve watched a few conformation shows where nice looking dogs have shown poor movement just because they had been taught to focus on the handler (specifically their hand). And here she is walking nicely while I fumble with my mitts.

Tonight is also Agility class for CB. Last week I realized that I haven’t  handled him off-leash from the right side very often. It hit me on the head  when I had to switch handling sides to get him over the A-frame. Duh. It makes sense that he doesn’t know what I want – I’ve worked jumps from the left because that’s where he needs to be for Rally trials and we’ve been picking up speed handled on the left and I guess I just went with it. The class has also been getting more complicated as we work on more “advanced” handling and I am being forced to change sides. That has been confusing for both of us. Here’s hoping that tonight’s class is a little smoother as I am able to now send him over a jump from my right side while staying in a standing position. Next step will be to work on  sending him while I’m moving. There are three classes left so I think that’s a good goal for us.

A quick Introduction

Being new to the world of dogs and dog training I wanted a place to be able to put down my thoughts in regards to my dogs and their training. For most people, a Pomeranian is really the last breed of dog someone would think of for competing in agility or any performance event. And I’ve actually had people ask me why I thought I needed to train my dogs and then on the other hand complement me on how well behaved they are (go figure, people are weird).

I was actually interested in a Papillon at first because of wanting to do agility, but ended up with one of the busiest poms out there having fallen in love with a photo on his breeders website. Turns out CB (Firesprite’s Crybaby) is incredibly active and smart, and since I had no clue how to play with a dog I ended up enrolling us in a bunch of training classes so I could learn about dogs and how to train them. He’s 20 months old and we’re now starting to focus exclusively on agility training classes. They are a lot of fun but also really challenging for me. We now also have Kona (Firesprite’s Dark N Bold) who is training in Obedience and Rally and is showing himself to be a sweet little dog who only wants to please.

They are a lot of fun and make life a little more interesting.