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.