Friday, January 18, 2008

Training really begins!

Sonic and I have had a good week this week with our training grounds finally being reopened so we can get some proper training done. Unfortunately the weather has been really hot so that makes it a bit restrictive but it has been better than trying to do everything at home. The other bonus is that his adult teeth are all through now so he is tugging much harder and I don’t have to worry about hurting his mouth anymore.

As usual I have had more training revelations with him as we discover the joys of working together. One thing I have discovered is how much he loves my plastic garden rake! At this stage I would have to rate it as number one on his list of favourite toys. It initially started out where raking the leaves in the back garden became an impossible task as he tried to rugby tackle it at any opportunity. Rather than locking him up when raking I decided to control the behaviour by only allowing him to interact with it on cue. So every time he tried to grab it I simply lifted it out of the way. As soon as he stopped or sat I brought the rake back down and started raking again. As soon as I could get two or three strokes in without the rake being tackled I released him to it. It only took about 10 minutes before I could rake a whole patch of grass without him trying to grab it. Interestingly he reverted to running around in circles “herding” the rake while I was raking while waiting for his release cue.

Last week we spent some time doing some fun stuff with the flexi tunnel in my back yard. He seems to enjoy doing it but I wouldn’t say that he’s crazy for it. To help build his enthusiasm I worked on rewarding him with a game of “kill the rake” to transfer the value from the rake to the tunnel. I actually think the tunnel may be kind of boring to him right now as I’ve only had it bunched up in a straight line. It wouldn’t surprise me if he gets more of a kick out of it when it’s bent up into a different shape.

We have also been forging ahead with our Susan Salo jump work. At training I was able to move up to three jump bumps plus the stride regulator at the front with the “V” poles on the front. I initially was working with 4 foot between the jump bumps but it was getting too tight now that he’s getting bigger so we’ve moved up to 6 foot. Funnily enough he much prefers doing this exercise to running through the tunnel. I spent most of Wednesday evening working on his stay at the front. I found that even after highly rewarding his sit stay as soon as he was actually released forward to his toy he didn’t want to be set up for the sit stay anymore but rather just tried to run back down to get his toy again. Seeing how easily he is managing this exercise as a young dog with a “clean slate” made me realize how great it is to be able to start these things from scratch. Already he will easily visually lock onto the toy at the end of the grid whether I’m standing beside him or beside the toy at the far end. He drives through confidently with a nice even stride to get his toy with no body language required from me. He probably rushes a little but I don’t think that will be a problem. I’m sure he’ll settle into it as he gets more experience. We should have no problem working up to five jump bumps next week.

Other than that we have been working on the relaxation protocol from Control Unleashed and I have focused a lot on the “LAT” (Look At That) behaviour as well. Now that he is getting older he is becoming much more aware of the other exciting dogs at training and can initially be very distracted/lunging towards the source. By incorporating the “LAT” work and keeping my rate of reinforcement very high it doesn’t take long for him to switch off from the distractions and realise that it is more rewarding to just focus on me. The other night he had other dogs doing jump grids fairly close and he although initially very distracted, it didn’t take long for him to ignore them.

So my training goals for next week will be;
- up to five jumps in the jump grid
- sit stays with proofing exercises
- shadow handling

Then lots and lots of questions at the Greg Derrett seminar next weekend before I continue with much else!!

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