Sunday, July 31, 2011

Perth Agility

The Sonic Project is going pretty well. We've progressed to me being able to recall Sonic to me when he's in the backyard with Riot which he would never have done before. If I let Murphy & Soda out as well I'm less successful but that is what we are working to next. I'm making the most of any opportunity that presents itself, for example last weekend we were out the front of the property gardening. It was such a nice day that we decided to let all the dogs out with us as well. Anytime they are all let outside of the backyard Sonic considers it to be "crazy" time so I worked on rewarding on the few occasions when he was lying down relaxed with the other dogs or when he came to me when I called him. After he'd settled down he would even come over and offer me tricks for a reward which made for a nice change from him spending every second watching Riot in case he did anything interesting.

I've had a couple of weeks off trialing which was a welcome relief. I love agility but sometimes you just need a break.... We had a single trial yesterday with Sonic just entered in both Masters classes. Although we didn't come away with any quallies I was really happy with what we did. Sonic uncharacteristically knocked two bars in agility and I unfortunately pulled him off a jump in jumping. Other than that he was spot on. Just goes to show that a training program of things like recalls and foundation work is far more beneficial than going to training and running sequences over and over again. I think Sonic's greatest improvement has come from me doing the recall work. Since I started working on that his response on course has improved out of sight.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Sonic Experiment

A few weeks ago I decided that I wasn't happy with certain aspects of Sonic's performance in the agility ring. At the moment he is handling like a dream and no one could dispute that he has an absolute ball while he is out there. But for some reason I'm not getting the speed that I know he is capable of. Every time we run clear in either Masters Agility or Masters Jumping when our states top agility dogs also go clear we are always about 2 seconds behind. For those who have seen Sonic running with my other dogs he is an extremely fast. Not surprising considering that he's built like a greyhound. With that in mind I decided that my immediate goal with Sonic is to transfer that amazing drive, power and speed that he possesses across to the agility ring. And so "The Sonic Experiment" was born!

Susan Garrett has really been my inspiration for this. Her incredible dog training skills and her amazing dogs who are a product of that make me want to be a better dog trainer. I've always admired her ability to look at a situation and come up with a plan of action to work through whatever issue she is facing with her dogs. So I've been studiously reviewing the situation that I currently have with Sonic. The boy has two main loves in life. Water is right up there at number two. If I walk anywhere near a hose or water bucket he turns into a screaming banshee. With that in mind I have already gotten to a point where I can ask him to perform most agility behaviours using water as a reward. His drive when doing agility definitely goes up a notch when I do this. It took a while to get him to focus on the task rather than the fact that I was about to throw some water for him but we got there. Then streets ahead at a big number one is Riot. If Sonic even has a remote inkling that he and Riot are going to go for a run together Sonic turns into a crazed beast producing bursts of speed to make you gasp. Sonic will not respond to either food, toys or his name in this situation. My challenge is to somehow to put myself into the picture when Riot is involved. Ultimately I want to transfer that speed to the agility ring by using running with Riot as a reward for agility and thus transferring the value of it.

The bonus that I had to get me started is that Riot doesn't feel the same as Sonic (not that Sonic cares!). Riot loves to run free but if I call him he is happy to come back and when I'm training him I have a hard time getting him to leave. He will always take food or come in for a toy when offered. So I decided to exploit that particular trait to my advantage. Obviously I have to bring Riot and Sonic together gently to begin with otherwise it's never going to work. So by putting Riot in a stationary position on a table has given me the opportunity to get Sonic started with Riot as a minimal distraction. Every day I do some work on this I get something different. Some days I have a little triumph and others I get depressed but it's been incredibly interesting so far. I hope that no matter what the end result I learn heaps from the experience.