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.


2 Responses to “Jumping Seminar”

  1. […] Davenport skrev et veldig interessant blogginnlegg. Det er nok slett ikke uvanlig at vi belønner hunden for det som er enkelt, men når hundens […]

  2. Thomas said

    Great blog! I think we all wonder why we don´t get progress in training for 4 years sometimes, instead of analyzing the dog´s behaviour and do some changes…

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