Saturday, April 25, 2015

Learning Curve

It occurred to me that I have no video of Veto other than when he first arrived, playing outside with Fizz. So time to time to rectify that! It's so nice to have something to look back on when they are grown-ups and remember what they were like as babies because they grow up way too fast. Training is an up and down affair. Every time I think I've worked through something with him and give myself a pat on the back he throws something else at me that I have to work through. Plenty of times I've questioned my ability to train a dog like him. Sonic was full on as a pup but mostly just by being an over excitable dork. Veto is not quite as silly as Sonic was (and still is...) but what Ve throws at you is a lot of dog. We are at a point where he's no longer allowed free access in the house at all. While I'm not too bothered about him playing with Fizz he is way too boisterous for Cassie to handle. The problem is that Cassie is such a bossy madam and is more than happy to start a game, but was getting hurt once he got over the top. He doesn't mean to hurt her and there is nothing malicious in it, he's just too much dog for her right now and when he gets over aroused he totally loses control. In a way it's probably a good thing that I've restricted his access because of Cassie. Otherwise it's too easy to let him run around and play with Fizz constantly. I'm not sure that is what he really needs, so the enforced restrictions are probably for the best right now anyway. I also finally measured Veto the other day out of curiosity and he’s almost exactly the same as Sonic was at this age. So I’m guessing he will end up a similar height to Sonic when he’s fully grown.

Finally I'm having some good retrieve success. It's taken a few weeks but after following Silvia Trkman's method I worked on shaping him to pick up a variety of things and put them in a container. Sure enough once he was proficient at that I put my hand out and got a toy delivered to my hand. Good boy Ve :) We are still working up to high value toys because playing with the toy has more value to him than the food, but I'm relieved that even when we are playing tug with a tug toy he is now much more inclined to bring it back to me to restart a game of tug. I've ended up doing quite a bit of ST's stuff from her Puppy DVD. Lots of easy to teach fun games that have an emphasis on body awareness. Interestingly Ve does have a tendency to shut down on me through some of the shaping sessions not unlike To was for Silvia. He can lose focus and start sniffing if he’s unsure. So it's been challenging working through that and understanding what he needs to keep him engaged. Fortunately increasing value of rewards and increasing the rate of reinforcement if he finds something difficult has worked really well. Like To was in the DVD he would start out really strong and you'd think he was all over it, but then suddenly he'd disengage and leave. It's nice when you have enough knowledge to have a quick resolution to what you are presented with each time you have a training session!

Veto started his journey with us being very intense and focused on me. So part of the work I've been doing with him is bringing some balance in without it going too much the other way, as in him finding everything more exciting than me... I almost had a heart attack a couple of weeks ago when for the first time I decided to take them all for a run around the property with the weather cooling off. I stupidly put him on a harness and lived to regret it within two minutes of leaving the house. He literally stood on his hind legs while galloping, his front legs waving wildly in the air and screaming at the top of his lungs. I was barely able to physically hold him. Kind of scary when he had never gone for a run with the other dogs around the fire break before so no reinforcement history for it. In the end the best I could do was get all the other dogs to lie down quietly so I could work with him. It took a while to wait him out but he finally calmed down enough and started responding to basic commands. Once I got that I let him have a run. While we were walking, any time he came up to either Colin or I he got rewarded and we made no attempt to call his name or catch him. The rest of the walk was uneventful and he slept like a log afterwards which was a nice bonus. Since then he only goes out with his little Halti on that I bought just in case I had an issue like this and he has to do some work before he's allowed off lead. I'm pretty happy that he will do a little bit of heel work and respond to commands now even when the other dogs are free but it takes varying degrees of time for him to be able to get his brain to work. Then of course for something new, his latest is to run back towards us flat out and straight into Cassie's face. Managed to stop that one pretty quickly by throwing a treat on the ground in front of him just before he got to us. That turned into running to my hand for the treat. Then I couldn't get rid of the little sucker who wanted to hang around for another treat! So overall I'm pleased with his progress and that he is choosing to come back and check in rather than spending his whole time herding the other dogs. But as is the way I’m sure it will be an up and down process for a while yet. Next will be starting to take some of this stuff away from home and see how he goes. He still needs to spend a lot more time going to new places and socialising.

Last weekend was our annual State Agility Trial. I didn’t have any idea how it would go and in particular how Cassie would cope. It ended up being more challenging in an emotional sense than any other with the news of my Grandad passing away on the Saturday night. So my struggles with Cassie felt huge at the time but on reflection (and reviewing the video) things weren’t really that bad. I just felt a bit down in general. No clean runs which added to my sense of everything going wrong but overall Cassie ran really well. She is handling the ring entrances with confidence and is showing no signs of concern when the lead steward comes over. No yawning or lip licking to be seen. The only thing that worried me a bit was that for one of the runs she wasn’t releasing with as much keenness as I’d like to see. Given that any actual release work I’ve done has been minimal in comparison to all the ring entrances it’s not surprising that there is still some work to be done there. It just means that now I will start to put more emphasis on the release at training and less on the ring entrances. And not helping things was that Cassie was pretty flat on day two. I had made sure they all had a quiet night on Saturday so she should have been well rested but I just don’t think she wanted to be there. So something else to think about in preparing her for Nationals which always run over multiple days. One step at a time!