Monthly Archives: August 2012
Looking back to where I was just 6 or 7 months ago with CB I feel we’ve come a long way. Both with my own confidence and handling skills and CB’s interest and motivation to do the obstacles. I think we’re in a good place for both of us being Novice and that I have a good plan to continue building on the pieces that we’ve already put into place. The one thing we haven’t worked on much is distance and aside for a little bit of a directed Tunnel exercise I did at the Kathy Keats seminar in March we’ve done very little as I really didn’t know what to start on and with some things I figure it’s better to wait than to have to undo something that I did just wrong. CB and I did get a successful closing gamble at the PNE trial in mid-July but the reason that was the case is because the closing gamble was nearly a straight line and I was able to work beside him at not too far a distance.
So I jumped at the chance to do a distance foundation class when the opportunity arouse last week. I’ve done nearly all of my agility training with Shannen at Dignified Dogs and this was another really good seminar.
Shannen set up exercises to work on the foundations of an “Around” command, side switches, and send-outs using “Go”. We worked on these skills using a combination of pressure and rewards. Where I really need to pay attention is with rewards. I generally reward from my hand because CB tends to start sniffing looking for food if I reward him on the floor – and I think he associates rewards on the ground with tracking right now. But to get him to work away from me I need to reward away from me, which means rewarding him on the floor, if my timing is at all off he starts tracking and then is looking for food instead of paying attention to me. Shannen suggested that I needed to introduce a “Take it” command for distance rewards so he’s not wandering the floor looking for that treat and I can differentiate it from the rewards we use in tracking with our “Find It” command at the scent pad.
For the “Around” command we worked on doing circles around different obstacles starting with one obstacle (e.g. a pylon) and moving up to three different obstacles. CB did quite well at this and I was able to get a bit of distance from him as the exercise progressed. Body pressure worked effectively with this one.
What was harder was the “Switch” command — instead of changing direction CB initially wanted to do an “Around”. We did manage to get a couple of good switches in but I can see this will take a bit more work to get some distance with. I also need to work on my positioning so I’m sending him the right signals.
The last thing we worked on was a send-out over a series of jumps (I think there were 5) using “Go”. This was also pretty good although I had to run up beside him the first couple of times and then didn’t have to go as far the last run through. I do see that I will need to be really consistent in my positioning and especially with my rewards as I don’t want to confuse him or end up with him tracking the course looking for treats. All in all a great seminar and I’ve got a few more things I can work on at home to keep things interesting for both of us.
I enrolled myself and CB in an Urban tracking seminar put on by Donna Brinkworth on August 11. Poor CB hadn’t been out tracking for a couple of weeks so I thought that since the seminar was on after the Spruce Meadows Agility trial it would be a good reward for him since he likes tracking so much.
We arrived in Olds in the mid-morning and met up with the beginner dogs and handlers while they were working on their serpentines. It was really neat to see some first timer dogs “getting it” especially since we did this exact exercise ourselves back in April. I had to pick up and hold CB because he seemed to know what was going on and was pulling to go and do the other dog’s serpentines. Hmm – do I need any more clues that this dog likes to track?
photo of beginner dog on a serpentine
Teaching a dog to track scent on veg makes sense to me now that we’ve been at it for a few months. I’m starting to believe that CB is actually tracking since we are using fewer food drops on vegetated tracks. It was really interesting to see the difference and similarity in teaching methods from hard surface to veg and vice versa.
The urban portion of the seminar started with a demonstration of a serpentine on hard surface using water (hydration intensified tracking training). Kona got to be the demo dog for this and my husband (who I asked to come along to learn how to lay tracks for when we start doing blind tracks) laid the serpentine for Kona and then handled him on it. He used water on his bare feet and then baited the track. Kona did quite well for a newbie especially since someone was cheap with the bait – below is a photo of Kona on the hard surface serpentine.
Donna set up the seminar so that each dog did 2 urban tracks. All the tracks were different in that different transitions were covered and also each track had different features that would trap scent (like curbs) or swirl/pull scent away from the track (like doorways) so that each track was it’s own lesson. There is so much to think about with Urban tracking and we covered a lot of bases with this seminar.
Here is CB’s first track. I think in total it was a bit over 200m in length and incorporated a few turns and went around a building.
We started with the scent pad on grass and then CB started tracking. I was thrilled when he took the first corner as we have only been doing straight tracks with the exception of a few serpentines here and there. He wasn’t quite sure what to do when we came to the first transition that required we cross a sidewalk. I had baited on the sidewalk and he eventually made his way across back on to the veg and did the same for the second transition. Where I was really impressed was at the turn on the sidewalk on the west side of the building. He just did it. So cool! He followed the scent up to the next turn and took that as well. He did fringe a little on the sidewalk as the scent can be trapped along the transition between the grass and cement but then he would come back onto the track to find his bait.
Our second track was laid by my husband and then he stayed in the Gazebo instead of placing an article at the end. This track was not totally blind to me but I didn’t pay attention to him laying it as he left and didn’t quite know where the first turn was. Even though this was just a training track it made me nervous. I can totally see how someone could blow a test by not trusting their dog and being super stressed. It’s a lot easier to encourage your dog to go on when you know exactly where the track goes.
We hadn’t tracked in a few weeks and I wasn’t sure how he would do as we’ve only gotten up to lesson 1.1.3 of the Enthusiastic Tracking book. The break was on purpose as he was very sniffy at the PNE trial in July and the break from tracking helped him forget to look for treats on the ground and we weren’t sniffy at the Spruce Meadows show. What I plan to do is have about a two week break from tracking sessions before an agility trial until I get our “Take It” and “Find it” commands solidified.
Looking back at the the past few weeks is quite a blur. Between my own personal stuff and dog stuff there has been little time for blogging. I’ve jammed in two trials, a seminar and I started competition obedience classes with Kona among other things. I also volunteered for the Southern Alberta Toy Dog Fanciers getting prizes for the specialty show that happened as part of the AKC summer show this past weekend as well as getting the performance specialty ribbons organized.
Two weekends ago CB and I were at the Paws N Effect Agility (PNE) trial – it was a good time and a good trial and but I was exhausted by being out in the heat and sun for two days. CB was hot too, as it showed in his times. There were some good runs even though they were slower than usual and he managed to get a closing gamble (that had a chute!) even though we haven’t done much for distance work and we didn’t have enough points to Q.
This weekend was the AKC summer show at Spuce Meadows. CB was entered in Agility both yesterday and today. My husband and I both ran him and dear hubby managed to get two Q’s with CB! Hurray!! Our second Q in Novice standard and our first Q in Novice jumpers with weaves. CB also won the Toy Dog Specialty ribbon for high score in Trial 1 (Regular class) yesterday. I didn’t expect we’d get this as there were toy dogs competing in higher classes and the ribbon was to go to Excellent first and then down the chain until it could be awarded. As it turns out CB was the only toy dog to Q so the ribbon is his. And it’s pretty.
A couple of things that have made a bit of a difference is that we dedicated a bit of time nearly every day the last two weeks to training outside in our yard, mostly weaves and jumps and it made a difference. I also ordered a bunch of new tug toys and and it was good to have new stuff with us as new things are always exciting and we’ve really worked at building up his drive over the last two weeks. I attended a jumps seminar just after the PNE trial and that made a difference, for me as well as I learned some things we probably should have been doing at the start.
The seminar was run by Shannen Jorgensen. This was great for us and it showed me how to get CB to extend more and we’ve also added more value to jumping. CB readily collects over jumps when I should want him to extend and that slows us down. We did a few exercises to increase “jump” value but what was the most useful exercise was the jump grid. I was first off surprised at his stride length and then at how he flew over the jumps. The grid is a series of five jumps set at his max stride length so he has to bound (extend) over each jump with no steps in between.
We spent the last two weeks alternating the jump grids with rewarding him for choosing to take jumps. For the “jump reward” I set up with either one or two jumps (with two I’m in between) and then reward him for taking the jump (or both jumps) without my asking. We also set up small courses in our yard incorporating the weaves and worked at making it more fun and exciting for him and alternating working him with Kona which built up a bit more desire for CB to work and vice versa.
You could tell the weekend and heat was really wearing on him as he wasn’t interested in the chute today and his last jumpers/weaves run the weaves were a struggle. This heat level is quite unusual for us (>30 degrees yesterday and today!!) and if we enter summer trials again we’ll only do the mornings but I think we’re better off indoors and for trials before mid-June and after into September.
Kona was also entered at the AKC show but in Rally. I entered him in two Advanced trials for just yesterday and he was looking good in practice as the trial was approaching. So good and so focused before his turn that I thought we should have Q’d both runs unless something happened. Well distraction happened once we got into the ring. He was not at all focused as he was at Evelyn Kenny last month and I think how busy this trial was overwhelmed him. The barn was busy with two trials, lots of spectators, many other dogs and handlers, the barn was HOT and he was distracted by the Judge and wanted to visit. I did have a cool coat on him before we entered the ring and he seemed peppy but his energy level dropped as soon as I took it off. I should have asked someone if he could have warn his cool coat in the ring – it’s allowed in Obedience but I didn’t think he could for Rally.
As it is we’ve had few opportunities to practice with that much distraction and even though we didn’t qualify it was good for me to see what we need to work on. He’s such an outgoing little dog that I just didn’t think that he would have been this distracted with how he did in July. I should have just brought him along when I came to help with the Specialty show on Friday and just hung out with him in the Obedience ring a while so he could get accustomed to just how busy it was.