Jumping Seminar

November 24, 2008

These past few days have been very busy as we have been at Susan Salo’s foundation jumping seminar.  The seminar went really well and although it was my third seminar I feel like I picked up a lot of things that had been a bit fuzzy.  Preston did very well, the only thing he needs improvement on is his footwork on the bend grids but he got many “good” and “very nice” comments so we must be on the right track.  The group was great because most of them have been working on grids wither with me or through Susan’s DVD so we progressed through the day very quickly.  All the dogs had great startlines and nobody had trouble getting their toy back at the end of the grid which helped a lot. 

Riot and I had a bit of a break through over the three days which I am extremely pleased about.  Because I teach so much it is rare that I get the opportunity to train my dogs in a class environment therefore my dogs have a history of bad behavior in the crate.  Riot is the worst as she will go crazy if a fast dog is running and will even bite the bars and claw at the door.  So for the first day I had her in her crate beside me while the other dogs were working and I would cover her when she barked, then uncover when she was quiet then reward as long as she stayed quiet.  As the day progressed I continuously had to cover, uncover, cover uncover, and there was no real sign of improvement.  I can’t say I have put much effort into working on this because it is not that reinforcing to me, especially when you dont’s see a lot of progress.  So that night in bed I was thinking about how I could speed up the process and all of a sudden realized where I had gone wrong.  I always tell students that if they are working on a certain challenge whether it be on the sit, crate games or even on weave poles or contacts that if the dog fails a challenge they should not get reinforced until they are successful with that specific challenge.  So if the dog is in a sit and you are working on tossing a piece of kibble as a distraction and the dog breaks position you would never make the exercise easier and reward the dog just for sitting.  Well my problem was that I wasn’t reinforcing the correct behavior.  When Riot stopped barking in the kennel I would uncover her, then I would wait until she was quiet again and then reward.  The problem was that the “challenge” Riot was working on was a dog running through the grid, and I was rewarding Riot for silence when there was no distraction present and as soon as the distraction was back she failed and was again covered, then again reinforced.  So I decided that the next day I would only reinforce Riot when she had been successful with the challenge I presented her (fast dog running through the grid) so I would uncover her and let her watch the dog running, if she freaked out I would cover, then if she was quiet I would uncover but I would not give her the opportunity to earn a reward unless the dog was running through the grid.  Well it took about 3 times to cover then uncover before she was quiet when a dog was running and I was very generous with my reward.  Well if you can imagine a dog who has struggled with this for four years it took about 10 minutes of work and she was near perfect for the rest of the day and even better the day after.  Even the most exciting dogs could run through the grid and she did not make a sound.  The expression on her face was priceless because for once in her life she actually got it, it was like “oh, you don’t want me to bark? why didn’t you just say so” and she never even looked at the dogs when they were running.  This just shows you that dogs never do things just to make you mad or because they are “blowing you off” they just don’t know what it is that you want.  It is our responsibility to come up with a way of communicating to that dog what it is that we want and they are so happy to comply.

Though jump grids are quite mellow in comparison to dogs running sequences it was a great start.  At practise tonight I had Riot in the middle of the arena and had dogs being recalled past her and toys being thrown and she only barked once and was quickly reminded of her job.  For the last four years I truly believed Riot went crazy in her kennel because she lacked self control and that it was just part of  who Riot was when in fact she just had no clue what I really wanted.

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The trial on the weekend went really well.  I just ran Riot and Preston as I had planned to give Chase and Bounder the winter off.  Because of the new requirements for the CKC world team application I have to do 4 trials with Chase before February so I guess he isn’t getting a break.  This was Riot’s third trial in a row with 100% clean on jumpers and standard!  Her YPS in standard were all around 5.3 and her running dogwalk was great. 

Preston on the other hand was just plain naughty!  His second trial (last month) was in a horse arena and when we got to the seesaw in our standard run he would not nose target in the dirt (totally forgot to work on that!) he instead nose targeted the end of the seesaw and I let him finish the rest of the course.  Since that trial we have been working our nose targets on lots of different surfaces but would you believe that at the trial this weekend he refused to target on every see saw!  He just stopped at the end with four feet on and stared at me.  Each run I took him off the see saw and made him re-do the obstacle and of course the second attempt was perfect…uhg!  Its amazing how reinforcing the wrong thing once can effect such a strong behavior.  So back to the drawing board; we took home a bag full of dirt from the arena and we are working on targeting at home on a baking sheet of smelly dirt, but I will likely have some training in the ring to do with my now ring wise dog.  Other than the seesaw Preston did well, though he decided to run past the chute in every run so we might have to go and train on some different equipment before the next trial.

Since I got Preston he has always had the habit of paddling his front feet on his startline, I have worked on it quite a bit but the behavior is still there.  I didn’t think it would cause a problem with his startline because he never breaks position and I don’t think it is due to stress or excitement, I think it is trained behavior.  He used to lean forward in the sit with his weight on his forehand so I worked a lot on getting him to sit up straight and while doing so I inadvertently trained the feet paddling.  The only time he does it is when I walk away for the first couple steps and then he stops probably because I have been conscious not to release him until his feet are still but since I am cracking down on my student’s start line behavior I figure I better not be so hypocritical.  I can walk around him and throw distractions behind him and he wont move his feet to look back, its just when I turn my back and begin to walk away.  I have tried a bunch of things but the problem is that it is only when my back is turned.  Tonight I came up with a plan and we have started working on getting rid of the behavior.  We will see how it progresses and maybe post some video, the big thing I have to be aware of is the response cost as it is such a cheap behavior. 

We have also been working lots on our obedience and I am thinking about entering a trial in April.  Our heeling is getting really good, just needs a bit more duration, our stand is almost perfect, just need to work on the examination.  The only thing left to train for Novice is a straight font and I plan to do that in the next couple weeks.  Just for fun we started some dumb bell work and our sit/down/stand discrimination.

As I was cleaning out my computer today I came across a whole bunch of old agility videos.  Videos long before I learned about good dog training, and boy were these videos shocking!  After looking at these videos I can understand why my dogs have the training issues they do. 

Most people have heard Riot’s story but I now have video proof of just how badly you can create a terribly trained agility dog!  Riot was my third dog and was always a crazy little dog who was full of spunk.  Not knowing much about dog training when I got her I tried to create a very driven, very fast agility dog.  Long story short…I created a monster!  A monster that I took to Say Yes dog Training to try and resolve allot of her issues.  While there we learned about new age dog training and how developing a relationship and creating a solid foundation is more important than creating a crazy agility dog.  Riot then went into 2 years of remedial training where we attempted to fix the problems we had created.  After seeing these videos it is a real wonder Riot is as amazing as she is, we have both come a long way.  We continue to struggle with our issues with self control and focus, throughout Riot’s journey I have tried very hard not to blame the dog but posting these videos will be a great reminder to feel nothing but pitty for this poor dog who is so naturally talented.