This last week at training has all focused around proofing Sonic's dog walk performance. It's been a really up and down process. Tuesday night I packed up all of Sonic's favourite toys and when it was our turn on the equipment, placed the toys all over the ground and on the bottom part of the plank. As soon as he started descending down the ramp you could see he was overwhelmed by what was in front of him. After a couple of goes however he improved quite a lot, although there was a definite slow down in his performance.
On Wednesday night I took the bag of toys down to training again and once more dumped them all over the decent ramp and the ground. This time however there was a definite increase in confidence and speed. At this stage I had his rate of reinforcement at about 50%. Sonic is still not running at the speed he was prior to proofing but he is handling the distractions much better. I was quite happy to pick all the toys up after Sonic's go but everyone decided they would like to work their dogs through the distraction exercise as well. It was quite funny watching all the dogs the first time that they noticed the toys. For some of them their eyes just about boggled right out of their head! We all agreed that we should make a lot more effort to include these types of things into their training routine.
Then Thursday night Sue brought down a bag of her toys so we could have some different things for the dogs to look at. To my surprise Sonic went back to stopping before he went into 2o2o position. I never thought that he would get so used to his own toys being there that he couldn't cope with seeing toys on the ground that he didn't recognise. I have to admit I was a bit disheartened after this session as I had also run a few without any reward to get him used to completing the behaviour and moving on but unfortunately it really didn't work well at all. Plus on top of that he caught one of his toes in the top of the A-Frame so I had a dog who had started the week skying the AF and going so quick he couldn't hold his 2o2o to a dog who was unhappy going over the top and subsequently crawling down the other side! In the end we finished our contact work off with a couple of dog walks and A-Frames with a really large reward while in position for each to help him recover from all the trauma.
This morning I headed off to Brian's to work on some grids. I have hardly done any grid work in the last couple of weeks cause I've been so focused on either weavers or contacts so I was quite keen to get back into some handling work. I still did a few dog walks with Sonic though when we first arrived. Rather than have toys strewn all over the place I decided to throw his toy while he was coming down into position. The first two he just flew straight off and went after the toy. The third one he went down into 2o2o but it was very slow. The next few weren't too bad (excluding the one where he was so busy watching the toy flying through the air that he fell off the edge...) and each one I rewarded with very high level treats and lots of them.
The grid work went pretty well. We jumped them over 600mm jumps today and it was very interesting watching Sonic really think about his jumps. The other bonus being that you have quite a bit more time to get into position when they have to jump a bit higher. We did some really great serpentines, something which we have struggled with over the last couple of months. On the down side the tight rear crosses that we did were pretty rubbish. We have been working quite a lot on getting serps right so I was really please with the progress. Now I will put rear crosses on the list to work on so we make those much better.
Next weekend spells Sonic's debut in the agility ring. He was entered in Snooker and Gamblers events on the Friday and Sunday nights and Novice and Open Jumping on Saturday night. At this point I have to say that I won't be running him in the games classes. I'm just not happy enough with his dog walk and to do them multiple times over in a games class with no immediate reward would be very detrimental to his agility training. We've come way too far to stuff them up now. On the plus side his jumping is going really well so I have no doubt that he will do great in those classes and it should be a really nice introduction for Sonic into the world of trialling. The following weekend is the Classic where he is entered in both Novice Agility and Novice Jumping. At this stage he should run but once again, I will make that decision the week before.