Sunday, December 21, 2008

State of Excitement

Currently the favourite toy in the Phillips household!

Recently I’ve been having lots of conversations with people about over arousal in our dogs. Sonic and his siblings all have extremely high levels of arousal and are quite a handful to say the least. It is interesting that quite a few people have said to me that I must have the laid back one of the litter as Sonic is very calm and controlled when he is at agility training. This always makes me chuckle to myself as they may have a different opinion if they saw him in other situations. This morning being a prime example, when Colin and I took them down the beach for a morning run. When we arrived in the parking area at the beach and lifted the back of the wagon Sonic started screaming. I’m not talking just a little whining, I’m talking full volume hysterical screaming. If you can imagine the noise a dog may make if someone was trying to remove one of his legs without using anaesthetic you would be close. This continued while the other dogs where allowed out of the car and is also generally paired with his body shaking and trembling. I won’t let him come out of his crate until such time as he calms down. Otherwise the problem just escalates. Once he has gotten control of himself we all head down onto the beach where they all have to lie down on the sand and wait until they are given a release cue. By this stage he is normally reasonably calm and we all enjoy a fine time in the sun.
Contrary to popular belief his calmness and control at agility training can be attributed to the “Control Unleashed” work that I did with Sonic when he was a youngster, and still continue to do to this day. He did not come out of the womb this way. I spent many, many, many hours working on calmness and relaxation techniques and now follow a training protocol before all of his training sessions that allows me to get him focused and ready to work. There is the very odd occasion that I have not been able to get him to settle into whatever work I’m attempting to do with him, however it is very rare. I am extremely grateful that this book came out when it did. Trying to train him when he is over arousal would be impossible and not even worth attempting.
As we move to the end of December I have good news in that Sonic’s skills on the exercises from Greg Derrett’s “Great Dog, Great Handler” DVD is coming along extremely well. I was a bit worried last month as it was a bit of a mess, but he is really coming along now and should be getting pretty comfortable with most exercises before we get to the seminar. Even if he gets them right the first time, I normally go back and break it down to tidy up turns and build his understanding of positional cues (and improve my own handling...).
I made a decision to give away our current weaving training as it was. Susan Garrett has very conveniently brought out a DVD on weaving which is the 2 x 2 method, done over a period of 12 days. I have always liked this method and she has now refined it further than when I first tried it with Riot back in 2005. So when my DVD arrives in the mail I will get straight onto it. This means he may or may not be ready for agility at the Western Classic, however I have entered him anyway and if I don’t think he’s ready we’ll just pull him out. I am really looking forward to the day that I can compete with him but I’m not going to do it if he’s not 100% ready. He’s got a long career ahead of him and there is no rush.

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