Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Agility Mission

So I've officially turned into the crazy dog training lady. I'm in the middle of not one but two online courses with Cassie.  OK, so I'm slightly obsessed about getting her back in the ring....  And for the first time ever I'm keeping a training journal (one for each course no less in case you didn't truly believe I'm obsessed) just to prove how determined I am!  I have never done that before.  I had already signed up for Susan Garrett's Recallers and then I also signed up as an auditor for Denise Fenzi's Bridging the Gap.  I would love to have gotten a working spot for BTG but I missed the early intake.  Recallers is great.  I've done it before and takes only a couple of minutes each day.  The exercises are simple but so effective.  Even doing the core skills where you work on rewarding something as basic as your dogs response to their name or the collar grab game is worthwhile.  As soon as I started working on those things I saw an improvement in Cassie's behaviour.

I'm really loving BTG.  It is geared towards transitioning from obedience training to the obedience ring but all the principles it uses are relevant for any competition ring.  It's just that obviously most dogs are far less likely to have these problems for agility.  I've learned so much already and seeing massive improvements in everything Cassie does.  I think the biggest lesson though has been to not skip the little things.  I look back now to some annoying little behavioural habits that Cassie has developed that I have just "let go".  Things like only working if she knows I have food (even though she only got rewarded after doing something), not always coming when she's called, doing stuff when she feels like doing it, disappearing under furniture when she decides she doesn't want to do something, not coming inside when asked if she knows we are going out and not coming in the morning when I'm going to work.  All things that drive me nuts but I just let it go.  Seems stupid now.  So I am systematically working through fixing all of them.  And the consequence of not doing it is that she misses out.  And Cassie hates missing out...  A couple of times I have actually seen her about to bunk off and very obviously change her mind and do the right thing.
I will not be tempted!
It's all small steps and replacing classic rewards with things like personal play and other games.  And what I love, no more (as Denise Fenzi calls them) "turn up cookies".  I never believed I could reward a dog too much.  But somehow I've managed it with Cassie.  We've managed pretty good play skills with nothing else going on but I moved onto playing with toys on the ground.  Of course Cassie's idea of fun when there are toys around is grabbing one and doing celebratory laps with it...inside at home is fine but outside not so great.  Needless to say we are still working on that skill and she has to be on lead.  On the really positive I have her weaving with an open container of treats on the ground next to the poles.  Nothing shabby about that!  I've also taught her to jump up for me to catch her.  A trick I've always wanted to teach her but doing agility seemed more important. 
I'm also working on our set up and finish when doing equipment.  So apart from no more "turn up cookies" at the start line which has now been replaced with personal play, we have a finish routine where she puts her head in her slip lead, followed by a game of personal play and then off to her treats.  Next will be incorporating someone walking up and taking her leash so that is no longer just a trialling thing.  I need to be careful though as I don't want to overdo it and overwhelm her.  It's a lot of changes to what she knew and this is about the journey for both of us.  I know it's easy to say not to sweat the small stuff, but in this case ignoring the small stuff is the biggest mistake I've made.  I have no doubt I would have gotten away with it if I was training a border collie.  Only having border collies previously has definitely limited my learning.  Never in a million years would I have envisaged experiencing the training challenges I have had with Cassie after having my bcs.
Pretty in Blue
On a lighter note, I picked up my lovely new car a couple of weeks ago.  Although unfortunately even that presented it's own challenges.  I went to Holden specifically to purchase a new VF Storm SV6 Ute.  I was pretty clear with them about that.  Yet somehow the Sales Manager ordered me a straight SV6.  If he had of stopped and taken a breath instead of trying to convince me to buy the car I'd gone there to buy maybe he would have paid more attention.  Don't get me wrong, I love my new car.  The Carry Boy canopy is so far superior to the one on my last ute.  I just never thought I would experience going to buy something and having the salesperson make a royal f**k up and not sell me what I asked for.  I haven't received my Holden Customer Feedback Survey as yet.  Won't I be having some fun with that when I get it...and no Rockingham Holden, throwing in free car mats and a free rental car that I have no need for when I get the car serviced does not make up for the royal screw up that was made.