Obedience Run Throughs- The Night Before a Trial

Well tomorrow Zumi and I will step into the AKC obedience ring for the first time.  Wish us luck!

Tonight I spent time moving all the equipment and ring barriers to setup for the trial.  Afterwards there were run throughs for exhibitors to get some fun ring time where they will be showing in.  I took time with Zumi and Vito to do some ring entries before heading home.  Since it was still a little bit before we opened to the public the space was still much quieter than I wanted.  But I was able to grab a "judge" to stand in the ring.

I did a small handful of ring entries over about 3 "sessions."  I know Zumi has some weaknesses that will likely appear with the pressure of a trial, but the night before a trial is not the time to train them.  My only goal is to work focus and attitude.  I want her confident this weekend.

Interestingly enough I found Zumi was a little worried on our first 2 entries.  I don't know if it was due to how different the room looked (it's usually our agility side!) or perhaps it was due to Netta being on the floor close by.  Zumi does well with Netta but she's not really confident.

And I was a little greedy.  But I tried to rectify it!


Vito did some too even though he's not entered this weekend.  He was extra bouncy!

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Dumbbell Focus with a Jump

It's been awhile since I've posted about my obedience training with Zumi!  Mainly we are still focusing on keeping her arousal levels done, especially with retrieves and go outs. 

With her dumbbell I'm still working hard with Zumi not moving a front foot, which leads to vulturing on my db throw, and then focusing on me after she marks the landing.  She's doing pretty good with longer throws now, although I usually warm her up with short ones still.

I decided to add a jump into the picture as I know that will be even harder for her.  I started with tossing the db a short distance with the jump in the background, and then a very short toss over the jump itself.  This session from 9/30 is still roughly where we are at.  Haven't had too many opportunities to train at home recently!



In general, I've really been trying to watch Zumi's arousal levels in training.  These last 6(?) months she has been doing some vocalizing in her obedience work and of course the vulturing.  It hasn't yet crept into heelwork but it is a problem with her go outs as well as the retrieves!

It's sure been interesting watch Zumi grow into adulthood this last year!

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Real Agility Dog!

The tollers just competed at a 2 day USDAA trial.  I am happy to report that my sleep deprived brain remained focused for all their runs!  Outside of the ring I can't say that was always the case, but I'll take victories where I can get them!

Zumi really stepped up her game.  This was her very first trial where she was focused and connected for EVERY single run.  Zumi has been having some great trials recently, but it's still been a mixed bag of those connected runs mixed with wheeee!!
Incidentally, it also coincided with 3 of 4 clean runs on Saturday and 1 of 2 clean runs on Sunday with the only fault being a missed weave entrance, a rare move for her.

We were at that point where pretty much all of the wide turns were about my handling and not due to just blowing by!  So proud of Duckie!


She even made it to round 2 of steeplechase and placed first!  Actually both dogs made it to round 2 which was a first for me!  I don't enter Vito very often in the tournament classes

Vito is also doing great running at 16in.  He had a table slide off he was running so fast in standard(!) although I also take blame as I forgot the lower table in performance meant I shouldn't race him to it and get in front...

Fancy Jumpers!

Steeplechase:

I am saddened that once again we will have a long break from trials.  One more trial to go next weekend, although I think Zumi got slammed by the labrador as she's favoring a foot today.  We will see if it's an actual issue or not...  Otherwise not till January!

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Stand Signals, Anyone?!

If you are at all involved in competitive obedience then you've been hearing all the hollering going on right now about the proposed change of position exercise for open in AKC.  Comments range from how impossibly hard it's going to be for the new dogs, to how much dumbing down we're doing to the sport.  Regardless of how you feel, I'm at least going to be training for it!

I guess I'm lucky that all 3 of my dogs have a verbal only stand and can do it at a distance.  I've even had fun doing some proofing of the stand cue while doing it with my back turned, lying on the floor, etc.  (Side note: TEAM level 3 also has a fun version of leave the dog, assume a weird position yourself, and then cue a position change, x2!)

But what I don't have is any type of signal to stand.  Yes my dogs can do a moving stand, or the stop in a stand position, aka signal exercise version.  But in both cases it's more of a moving "freeze" in position rather than move into a stand with a signal.  And regardless, heel position signals don't quite translate to now having to face the dog. 

So I need a new signal!!!  While the proposed regulations allow verbal and/or signals, I want to use every tool in my box to get that distance stand in a trial! 

I personally like all of my signals to start slightly different from each other.  This was drilled to me from others and I like the logic in knowing my dog knows exactly what I want from the second the signal starts versus needing it be completely finished.  But this also makes it harder to come up with new signals and not add confusion for my dogs!

So far I've settled on my left hand for the stand signal since I have slightly more signals on my right hand (down, come, finish right, take the right jump) than my left hand (sit, finish left, take the left jump). 

I'm currently experimenting with my signal starting coming in towards my body first so it looks the most different.  But of course that also makes it harder to see at a distance!

This weird wave of a hand signal is what I got so far. Very open to ideas!

I'm currently giving signal +verbal at the same time to Zumi as she's very twitchy!  If I do new signal, then pause and give the known verbal she will twitch in anticipation of wanting to do something, but then of course she doesn't know what I want so she waits for the verbal.  I don't like the twitch :) so I'm getting her used to seeing the signal at the same time for now.




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Nala Walking with Focus

I admit that I usually don't have to do much with the dogs I've raised to get nice "attention walking" or heads up heeling.  Having focus on me is always a must have before I begin any actual training with a dog each session.  I don't want to have to fight with a dog in trying to be more exciting than the environment, so I just don't.

Through our play sessions, all of my dogs have easily learned how to keep their focus on my eyes or shoulders even while moving.  They don't want to miss out on anything!  Then it's just a matter of getting that focus as part of our criteria when doing formal heeling or our less formal attention walking, but the foundation of focusing while moving has already been taught.  I don't require any of my dogs to keep their eyes on me 100% of the time when we're going on our neighborhood walk, but they can be called upon that skill when needed.

Nala has been a fantastic 9 month old puppy for me.  Very easy going, eager, and just a bit sensitive.  But she has really struggled with learning this skill.  Of course, she gets the typical level of distractability that any puppy would have, but even when "focused" and wanting to work she naturally dips her head any time we start moving, on or off leash.

As a future service dog, the ability to give eye contact while moving can be crucial in navigating crowded areas.  Nala does a great job of general "loose leash walking" but she has a long way to go in learning to focus on her person instead of getting excited to greet people, or sniff the shelves, or...

I am currently teaching Nala that it IS possible to keep her head up and still move! Rewarding UP has helped her quite a bit.




I've also found that Nala is a bit different from all the other dogs I've worked with, in that she has had an easier time learning to focus up when walking forwards than backwards.  I think we finally reached 6 steps of walking forward without a head dip vs backwards walking is still about the level she shows in the video from a few weeks ago.  Very slow progress, but progress!


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Rally Advanced title and kids

This past weekend I went to another AKC trial with Zumi to see how she would do.  I like rally as a stepping stone to obedience for her as it lets me see how she's doing with the bit more formal and stressful AKC environment, yet is a much shorter time in the ring and with more opportunities for me to support her with praise if needed.

The trial was unexpectedly HOT.  It was inside, but not air-conditioned. Summer came back to MN and was even warmer than most of the entire summer was.  I know I was affected by the heat on Saturday and I think Zumi was too.   She was a bit sedated than expected but I didn't get the feeling that it was just from stress.  Overall she was eager to engage and I didn't notice any "broken" behaviors outside of the ring.

My main worry on Saturday was that the first sign in advanced rally was the figure 8 with toy distractions.  Zumi has done well with those signs before, but I've never seen it right at the entrance before.  It was definitely a case for needing a strong connection on the ring entrance and leash removal!!!

However when it was getting close to our turn in the ring I discovered that the toys would be the least of our worries.  There was young boy who walked up to the ring and I could see that his mom was going to be in the ring right before Zumi.

Zumi is terrified of children.  I didn't put as much effort into socializing my winter puppy as I should have and it shows with kids.  Getting gradually used to Netta getting more mobile will help, but I am doubtful it will generalize to other children.

I strongly believe that kids have every right to be at trials, from all ages.  I want more kids involved in dog sports!!!  And yes, I currently bring Netta to agility trials so that I can actually trial my own dogs and she will continue to come to trials as she grows.  Zumi's issue with children is MY problem, not the other family's problem.  I see it the same as if I were to have a dog afraid of black dogs, or didn't like men in hats, or....   Sometimes you can do training to help with the issue, but mostly you need to figure out how to manage it as you can't expect that trials are completely sterile environments devoid of anything your dog finds distracting or scary.

I have no problem with people coming up to me and asking for REASONABLE accommodation if their dog has issues with Netta.  (And of course some people give me evil glares no matter what.)

Since the child was extremely well behaved and already off to the side of the ring I couldn't reasonably ask the child to miss his mom's run.  And unfortunately Zumi had spotted him and was clearly nervous.   I tried to calm her with moving away and cookie scatters, but it wasn't enough.  When we went into the ring the boy was walking behind us and leaving the area, and Zumi turned to give a single bark to him.  I told the judge that I thought we were going to have to leave since she was worried, but he was generous enough to give us a few minutes to regroup.  I was able to get Zumi refocused and mostly pulled together so I decided to try our run.

The first half of our was held together with praise. She was technically precise, but not with the attitude I want.  After the first half she loosened up and finished pretty well.  The run scored a 99 and finished our rally advanced title.

Sunday I moved her up to excellent and was certain it wouldn't be an issue since we would be behind a different team.  Unfortunately for Zumi, there were about 4 different kids there (but YAY for the sport!) and once again a young girl was going to be watching the dog right before us.
This time I had a better plan for managing the issue so that Zumi would hopefully not notice.  I did end up apologetically approaching the handler to ask if she would station the girl a bit further from the ring entrance instead of right in front of it when it was closer to our run time.

I can't say our warmup was exactly what Zumi needed, but we did have a great focused ring entrance without any anxieties.  Her focus was better, but whether due to the warm weather or stress some of her energy was lacking.  We did qualify again for our first excellent leg.

I was honestly surprised by Zumi's behavior at the trial, minus the kid worries.  Based on her last CDSP trial where she was high as a kite, and then the AKC rally trial we did last month, and in general her higher intensity while training recently...I was expecting to work on calming her arousal levels down.  But mostly she was very relaxed outside of the ring.  I remain puzzled on how to best warm up Zumi for a trial.

All that being said, I did end up submitting my entry for AKC novice at my club's trial the end of October.  I'm not entirely sold that Zumi is where I want her to be before entering, but I was swayed by several outside factors including supporting the 2 provisional judges who need the numbers.
Now I just need to practice doing the stays as I can't say I do very much formal practice with it!

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2 Day Trials

Our consecutive weekends of agility finishsed up this last weekend with a 2 day UKI trial.
And I learned I absolutely should not be trying to do agility runs 2 days in a row with how sleep deprived I am.  Snooker was certainly a disaster on Sunday, sorry Vito.  If only Netta would stop waking up every hour!

Alas my goal of getting a standard Q or 2 with Zumi was not to be.  She was a pretty good Duck, but I feel we're not quite consistent yet in her handling.  Sometimes she feels very "sticky" and other times she's barely contained, and alternates in the same run.
Still, there was improvement from our last trials!  Zumi's "vulturing" start line was much improved! Still there, but responding to "sit" cues to get up.
 I'm working on it in practice with having her do a "Beg" before released but she can't do it yet with much distance.

Zumi's Master Series jumpers course was probably her best run of the weekend.  She even made up for some poor handling in the beginning when I wasn't quite moving fast enough.  The dropped bar was all my fault.


Her novice standard run on Sunday, some more bad handling as well!  So tired!


Vito was also very happy for his runs on Saturday.  Sunday was more meh.

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Zumi's Dumbbell Progress

I have been continuing to work with Zumi on being in a more calm, thoughtful mode before being sent on her retrieves.  We are making progress with distance of the throw and starting to do a little bit more proofing with my body language and other cues before being sent.  The new critieria I've been working on are:
- No foot movement as I give the cue to wait
- Eye contact before being sent

And the new criteria for myself is remembering I changed her cue from "Get it" to "Fetch" in order to be more clear with my marker/reward cues.

This is a session from Zumi this past week.  She is still moving a foot in wanting to vulture when I give the wait cue for the beginnign reps each session. I  try to reset when I notice this.

When I add in other cues she sometimes whines in excitement although she is able to listen and do what I ask.  Since this is a sign of over arousal,  I try to go into calming mode with cookie scatters and sticky targets.  You can see this at 1.31 in the video below:



Zumi still has a long way to go before she's ready to take this into a trial setting again!

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