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.

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