Thursday, February 23, 2012

Back to Basics

Agility class is back in session and I'm already behind on blogging!

{Gilda & Sunshine}

{Pico & Sunshine}

We are now back to lessons with Jessica with Gilda & Pico each in their own class.
A little background: Gilda has been in Agility classes for 2 years now but has had a somewhat unorthodox path due to: 1) her novice handler 2) her reactivity issues and 3) her lack of 'confidence'.
Like many dog handlers who are new to Agility, I just wanted to get to the fun stuff! Believe me, early classes were not very fun with Gilda as I tried to keep her focus, pay attention, and keep my frustration from becoming overwhelming! With all that going on, it was even more difficult (and not so fun) to work on boring foundation drills...
Now that Gilda has better focus and is once again happy in Agility class, it's time to go all the way back and nail those important Foundation Skills.
I agree with Jessica's suggestion that we begin defining criteria for Gilda because she really does better when she understands what we want from her. For example, during our last session, we were  having Gilda travel across the Dog Walk in an effort to regain her comfort with the equipment. Now, working with only one end-plank on the ground, we are rewarding only for speedy movement across the ENTIRE plank (no late entry on or early exit off). Gilda did very well with this exercise even when the entry-side was elevated.
We are also taking Gilda back to Jumping basics mainly because she has never been an enthusiastic jumper (she  gets that look like, 'oh alright, I'll just do it so we can move along). During last week's class, she would lay down and just look at me between each half-hearted jump. (Jessica explains that this tells us that laying down is more reinforcing to Gilda than taking the Jump).
Last night we did a few Jump sessions with Gilda (with other exercises in between) and she was much improved by the last one!
Pico is an entirely different creature... Pico is, at every given moment, ready to learn and ready to perform. He is also more handler-focused and eager to please. I understand the importance of getting the Foundations down pat now too and luckily, Pico finds Foundation work just as much fun as running a Tunnel!
We are working on Pico's Jumping, Sequencing 2 Obstacles, Running a Plank, and getting a solid 'Stay'. Pico's Shadow Handling is coming right along even though I feel like a haven't put a whole lot of effort into it!

Here is a video (uncut and with me in jammy-pants!-sorry!) of one of Pico's first Jump practice sessions. The goal is for him to start offering a Jump as soon as he sees the Obstacle. Since we are just starting, I am  to remain neutral and give no cues. The treat is placed at the side of the Jump upright to get Pico to start Collecting and Wrapping the Jump. You can see how quickly  he caught on...

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Treibball I Graduation!

{wtg Gilda!}

Last night was our final Treibball I class and Gilda tore it up! She had quite possibly her best class EVER!
She was focused and working and best of all, she was confident and happy with a wagging tail to prove it...
Unfortunately, I took no recording devices with me to this class and therefore, you'll have to trust my firsthand account.

We started the class by having the dogs drive one ball in the in the opposite direction that we had been working during prior classes. All three dogs did fine with this task. Next, we worked on our "Out and Down". This is a challenge because it's apparently not nearly as much fun as pushing the ball! The goal is for the handler and dog to start at the goal. The handler gives the "Out" cue and the dog should run in an arc around the balls until the handler cues a stop at which time the dog should automatically Down. Obviously, this will take lots of practice. Gilda is willing to go out so long as I am going with her. She is also willing to down behind the balls but wants to be really close to them when she does it.
{Mackey LOVES to push the ball!}

{Note the tail wag!}

For our third exercise, we had each dog drive 5 balls! I wasn't sure how this was going to go but Gilda did great! She stayed focused for the entire exercise and drove the balls one by one for a pretty good distance!

I am thrilled with my little speckled dog's progress in just 5 short weeks...

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Treibball Class!

{Gilda hanging with Mackey!}

We had class 5/6 last night at Ohio Air Dogs and Gilda did very well.

{Mackey driving}

{Gilda driving

{Snoopy driving}

During practice at home, Gilda does well with 'around the clock' work and ball pushing but has difficulty combining the two skills (which is not surprising since we've only been at this for about 4 weeks!). We also need to work on our 'Out' since the dogs are required to leave the handler's side and travel around to the point ball to start the game. Distance work is not our forte at the time!

{Gilda performs a
"go to mat" during class}

I am so thankful that Marie seems to really understand Gilda and notices immediately when her stress levels rise. Marie does a great job of keeping the class like the fun game that it's meant to be.

{Gilda works 3 balls}

Gilda does really well at the facility and stays calm and focused with the other dogs. Treibball seems to be quite an effective confidence builder!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Look on the Bright Side

Gilda had a 'shut-down' incident last week while clicker training! This was highly unusual as Gilda loves to clicker train. I was working on an exercise for Treibball class and I think the clicker was too close to her face. Whatever scared her led her into a complete shut down in an instant. I haven't seen anything like it since we caravan-ed miles and miles in the snow last February!
After that, training was touchy. We went to our 3rd Treibball class last night (after Gilda had spent the entire day in dog daycare) and she stressed pretty early into the class...
HOWEVER, she was willing to lay on her mat and stay focused on me while the other dogs ran right on by her. I had her doing 'Look at that', 'watch me' and target stick 'touches'. If you had asked me a year ago, I would have told you that we'd never get to this point. It may sound simple but to me it's a milestone.

Today we traveled to Akron Children's to go visiting. I had time to walk both dogs today and they had a blast frolicking in the field on the way to the park.
Once into the park, the same old story emerged... barking and lunging at everyone and everything passing by. Gilda actually seems better but seem to alarm when Pico freaks out. At one point she put herself on my right as someone was walking towards us and only barked when Pico did.
A kind and patient gentleman with the help of his Yorkie Poo, Romeo and his Shih Poo, Tito, helped us greatly today! When I told him that both of my dogs were actually nice and dog-social and that I was just having trouble with them reacting on leash, he gathered his dogs and waited patiently while I backed up with mine. As we talked, I observed my dogs and stepped a little closer very slowly until all 4 dogs were standing on the path together acting like they have known each other for years. The whole process took about 15 minutes and I am forever grateful to my new dog friend Ed (who refers to himself as the 'ugly old guy'!).
I used lots of treats and praise during our encounter with Ed, Romeo and Tito and was feeling really proud of my dogs when we parted ways at the fork in the path. As we rounded the corner, 2 young guys were walking towards us and... all hell broke loose! This is going to take awhile...
After another romp across the field (I don't know how Pico survives the torturous rollings he endures as Gilda 'herds' him), I bathed both dogs and Gilda and I headed off to do our volunteer work.
As usual, people there are so impressed with her tricks and her attention to me. It really got me thinking about how far she has come and made me realize that I should focus on that rather than all of the things she hasn't yet accomplished. So here we go:

1. The little pup that wouldn't eat food for months now eagerly seeks out and performs for food.
2. The little pup who wouldn't walk on a leash for the first month now heels (okay maybe occasionally but we're working on it)
3. The little pup who was deathly afraid of all people is now a Pet Partners Certified Dog!
4. The young dog with zero dog social skills is now adept at giving calming signals, at diffusing bad dog situations, and will stand stock-still to let another dog sniff her (this is an awesome thing for all you non-doggers out there!)
5. The young dog with zero ability to focus can now sequence 7+ obstacles and can lay on her mat while other dogs run about.

These are solid accomplishments especially for a novice dog owner with no herding dog experience. It's always good to have things to work on right?
To the Moon Gilda & Pico!