Fixing the Vulture

If you read Zumi's trial report of her first experience in the Open obedience class, her biggest issue was over excitement and anticipation with the retrieves.  She was like a little red border collie as she hunkered way down, just twitching to be sent.

I recently spayed her and with the restrictions, it was a great time to work on just being still!
I divided up the issue into 2 goals.

1. Maintaining a straight posture as I cue the wait and go to toss the dumbbell.
2. Offer eye contact after watching the dumbbell fall in order to be released.

Good Posture
The first goal of sitting straight I tackled first.  Zumi doesn't have the issue with me tossing cookies so I went straight to the dumbbell.  Just holding it out and rewarding Zumi if her front paw didn't move forward, always her first move before she really hunkers down.  I would immediately take the db back to my body if the paw moved and re-cue her to sit.

Essentially this just became a version of doggy zen with me moving my arm back and forth in a tossing motion.  I'm not sure how much Zumi knew it was posture I was working on and not eye contact, but I got a 2 for 1 deal.

Eye Contact Before Sending
These last few days as Zumi has been allowed to do more activity, I've moved on to actually requiring eye contact before being sent to retrieve.

My first sessions were very short retrieves where I didn't throw, but gently set out the db on the ground.  This setup was fairly easy for Zumi as it was reminiscent of our work with remote rewards.  Zumi knows that she always needs to give eye contact before getting a reward at a distance.

It did become slightly harder once Zumi knew she was being sent to the db though.  Typically when I work with rewards at a distance, I am the one to go and actually get the reward vs sending the dog to it.  I find this works better for the obsessive tollers for me to have 100% of their brain in training vs some of it on the reward itself.  So once Zumi was being sent to the db on the ground it became a little problem to work through.  But the small distance and lack of throwing was still very doable.

I have recently started throwing the db short distances for Zumi.  This is where getting eye contact has been very difficult.  Zumi's hunt training, although limited, I need her to keep looking straight at her marks until sent or given another cue to turn away.  She will be able to learn the difference in context, but it is not an easy task for her!

I don't require my other dogs to give me eye contact before released after watching a thrown mark, but with Zumi I feel this is crucial to helping her anticipation issues when over excited!

Here was today's session with Zumi and her dumbbell.  Notice I warm up a little bit with posture work, but also let that slide while focusing on the eye contact department!  I'm a little greedy and throw too far here :(

The quick version:


The full session for those who care:

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New Website- Online Lessons!

I recently took the jump into making a more formal website for my dog training.  And because I didn't want to feel left out of all the cool trainers having offical business names, I made up one too.

Introducing Tandem Dog Sports


I even used photoshop for my first time!

The big news is that I'm opening up my private lessons to more people and offering them online.
That means people can purchase an hour, or multiple hour blocks, of time for video review and feedback.  It might look something like this:

  • You send me video of a behavior you're training and some notes.
  • I look at the video and spend some time writing suggestions on how to improve or what the next step is.  I keep track of the amount of time I spent working on my feedback.
  • You respond with anything that needs clarifying.
  • I reply back.
  • You send me a new video on the behavior or switch to a new behavior.
  • Repeat the cycle.

This continues until an hour of my time spent on feedback is up!


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Open Vulture Dog

This weekend was the CDSP obedience trial and Zumi's graduation from Novice into Open.  As I wrote earlier, I knew we had some precision issues to work on and some possible anticipation issues.

Preview: Watch the 1st video to see her best run . The 2nd video if you want to see her extra high.  And the 3rd to see my attempts at handling her differently.

Friday was an evening trial and she had one run.  In many ways, I was surprised with how much effort into precision she was giving me.  Not a single thought of running a victory lap on the retrieves.  Jumped long on the broad, but not in a spiraling out of control way.
Vulturing big time on the retrieves.  That itself wasn't a huge surprise to me as she occasionally does it in practice when extra excited. But I was very surprised by the extra intensity of it.  I was praying the judge released her quickly as Zumi wasn't just vulturing but was teetering off the edge of control.
And a mini scream before the go out, what was that?!  My multiple stay cues before the exercises started weren't exactly great handling!

She qualified in this run, but only because her anticipation on the1st retrieve went unnoticed.

Sunday we were back for 2 more attempts in Open.
Attempt #1 Zumi was even higher.  I didn't really think that was possible with her.  The good part was that she wasn't thinking about anticipating the finishes.  The scary part was all her squeals on each send.
And major anticipation on the ROH.  She did catch herself though and I paused for awhile before sending her.  Clear NQ.

Attempt #2
I had no idea if Zumi would naturally settle in a bit more with a 2nd run or if she would  get even higher.  My plan was to try to calm her as much as possible in our warmup.  I did lots of walking outside with her.   Had her out for her crate quite a bit longer before her run.  At first it was just sitting on the ground with her, then I got the idea to see if someone had a snuffle mat.  I had Zumi search for treats in the snuffle mat for several minutes.  Unfortunately she's not really used one before as I've primarily used it with Vito.  So Zumi did some sniffing for cookies, but also just offered lots of her sad chin down trick.  At least we did some slow cookie delivery games to try to center her.

On her squish release into the ring I also handled it differently by asking for a sticky target instead of leaping heeling.

The downside of all these calming changes was that we weren't really connected in our heeling.  I think partly due to Zumi not being used to this way of starting work, and partly due to Zumi needing more drive to focus as well in heeling.  She was a bit unfocused and hesitant, and even did some right sided heeling attempts.

The positive side was that Zumi seemed slighlty more in control on the other exercises. We did lots of sticky targets in between exercises to try and connect in a calm way.  No anticipation, but still vultured a lot.  No screams until the go out.

Qualified for her 2nd leg in Open!
Pretty obvious on what we're going to be working on the next few months!!!  Although Zumi is getting spayed next week so we will be on a bit of a hold again for a few weeks...

Vito also did one run on Friday and one run on Sunday, both Utility.  On Friday I was thrilled with how eager he was to warmup with me.  Very driven Toller!  Inside the ring he melted a bit on the stand for exam.  Not easy to start out with that when he has judge issues!  
And then he searched for the steward again on the first glove retrieve, just like the last trial.  On the 2nd glove send he did great.  
Go outs were hard for Vito to mark as he fixated on our videographer.  Someone he still pulled it together and went out straight.
Articles were odd.  I thought he did nice calm sniffing, but he brought back the wrong one.  I played with him and told him he was brilliant anyway.
Good signals!

On Sunday Vito was calmer.  Took a long time to choose to engage with me outside of the ring.  Despite that, I was thrilled with the level of play he gave me in the ring!  Unfortunately we had the same order of exercises, so the moving stand was up first.  This judge was quite a bit peppier (yay for happy judges!) but was also more "involved."  Vito seemed to have a harder time with her.

More glove issues in trial 2.  Going out happily on both sends, but then freezing over them and staring back at me.  We have done so much work on happy glove games since the last trial and it just puzzles me....

I did leather this time for scent articles and he was correct but was tasting each one.  

No more CDSP trials for the rest of the year I think :(  So Zumi will attempt some AKC rally and Vito will just be on hold until the next CDSP trial..

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Ready to Trial?

I'm getting excited for a CDSP trial coming up this weekend!  Zumi will be doing open for the first time and I'm extra thrilled to be done with novice.  I'm not one to sit around in novice forever trying for a 200, although at least CDSP's version is more fun than AKC's!

Is she ready?  Well that depends on what you mean by ready.
Focus in different places- check.
Happy attitude- check.
Confident with the exercises, in different locations- check.
Confident without a high rate of rewards and with the reward set away- check.
Used to formality- check.

The rest is a bit muddy still.  There's about a 30% chance she will *think* about doing a victory lap on the first dumbbell throw, and a 10% chance she will actually do it.  But it would be a happy, oh I thought it was a toy, victory lap at least ;)

There's also about the same chance she will go wheeee and stride very, very long with the running broad jump before turning back to do her front.  The CDSP version is x1000 more fun Zumi says.

Oh and maybe the mini go out will be veered off the right, and the drop on recall will be a bit slow, or since I sent in the entry she of course is beginning her experimentation now with the occasional anticipation of the drop.

Fronts and finishes are of course a lifetime work in progress.

There's a ton of things that may not meet that perfect picture.  But I am still confident in my decision to enter her.  Zumi really does know the exercises well.  I know what errors may crop up, and if they rear their head they will be errors of enthusiasm.  And most importantly, I'm not worried about any mistakes ruining her confidence or making the problem worse.  Her focus and happy attitude are going to be there.  And if need be, I'll give her the extra support that CDSP allows.

All that being said, I'm still not entering Zumi in AKC obedience at this point.  Based on Zumi's reaction to the more stressful atmosphere that hangs in the air at local AKC trials, I'm holding off.  I need more practice with Zumi being confident in more pressure filled environments.  I am entering an AKC rally trial in a few weeks to test the waters as I think she's getting closer to that goal.  Rally is shorter, I can support her more, and she doesn't seem to mind the start/stop design of rally.

In the meantime, I've been trying to continue my goal of training in different locations.  This week I visited a park to see if Zumi could happily choose to work near kids playing.  Zumi's not so sure about screaming children!

This basketball court near the playground, and a tennis court, was a great place for Zumi to work. I think there was a day camp as there seemed to be a billion children, but she wasn't worried about the kids at all with the distance.  I chose to keep the work very simple to reward her.  Actually I went all the way back to simple ring entrance setups! After a few minutes of ring confidence fun I did do a tiny bit of more "work" with her.


I also took Vito out for a turn and was thrilled that he was able to work with me there too.  They even started playing tennis immediately to the side of the basketball area and Vito was able to watch the players and then turn back to me.  That would have been major Toller Screaming a few years ago!  Or even on a different day?!  I stuck purely with very basic ring entrances here so as not to push too hard.

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Getting Out in Public

I've never been that great about getting out and actually training the dogs in public.  I use the training club about once a week and then at least in the summer I try to train in the yard several times a week.
Actually going beyond our comfy, easy, places into the real world just doesn't happen much.  And of course now I have a built in excuse with the whole baby thing ;)

But going out is exactly what Vito needs to keep working on his choice to work.  And while Zumi generally can work pretty much anywhere if I have her rewards, she really needs more opportunities to become comfortable in challenging environments.

So I am committing myself to going out in public for training at least once a week with the dogs.  Mainly I've been going to to a little plaza that's not typically very crowded.  On this day there were some people seated in a patio behind us, but traffic was extra low due to the road being temporarily closed on this side of the plaza.

Zumi
This was Zumi's first experience working while I was babywearing.  I let her forge a bit more because of it!  After I started working with her in this session I kicked myself for not forcing more acclimation time on her.  Zumi waited in the car while I had a meeting and  I wanted to get a quick session in before going home.  She always wants to work quickly but I usually don't let her work so soon.  Zumi had about 8 minutes of waiting at the table while I took Vito out, but I don' think that was enough for her based on her behavior here.  Subtle little things that you feel more then you see.

I do ask her to take a break at the 3:20 min mark here, and then remember she needs a more formal down for that.


At the 6min mark I work on some of her drop on recall issues that have recently cropped up.  Zumi has started anticipating the drop cue in our practice sessions!  Because of that I've been choosing to drop her pretty late on the recall. You can see she's slow and thinking very hard!

Vito
Vito was with me at the meeting so had a long time of getting used to being out, even though our meeting was still on the other side of the building.  I still rushed things a bit with him and ultimately lose Vito when our flow was broken.

Vito has been getting much, much better about working in public with me.  But there are still those sessions where he just isn't ready.  If I were to get out cookies and really show them to Vito I can get his attention easily even if I put them back away, but that's the not the real engagement I'm looking for.

For those who like watching long videos of dog training, here is a recent session of Vito working where he was much more UP and engaged.  At the 4.5min mark I switch to having the rewards of my body altogether.

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1000th Post- Podcast!

I just discovered that after journaling for over 8yrs I am now on my 1000th post!  Does anyone want to send me cake to celebrate?

So I also did this podcast thingy.  Very hard for me to be social, but I did it!  More cake please.
I actually couldn't bring myself to listen to it for 4 days.  But I finally did and now I'm sharing it with you guys.



Seriously, if you haven't already checked out this podcast and subscribed you should do so now.  Lots of great trainers and way better at this thing than me.

And on that note, the August schedule at FDSA  is insane.  SO many good classes that I have no idea how I'm going to choose.  Honestly.  Sara Stremming's class on shut down dogs?! Amy Johnson's class on action photography?!  And Deb Jones is even teaching a class for training cats!  I'm pretty sure my evil kitty would love getting cookies instead of having to steal whatever he can.

Of course I'm also teaching a class for obedience foundations called TEAM 1.  If you ever wanted to teach an independent backup I already have that as my sample lecture for you to get started!

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UKI

UKI trial this Saturday with the tollers.  Many thanks to Grandma coming along to watch Netta!  She got to experience eating astrotuf, napkins, and Grandma's shoe. Good job Netta.

Zumi had 4 runs and only had a single off course all day, the very first run.  She even did well with choosing to focus in the ring and not running off to see Grandma!  We stationed Grandma right at the entrance for each run so that she knew exactly where she was located and it was close by.  Who knows whether that new protocol helped Zumi or whether it was just maturity.

Sadly the one run Zumi actually needed to qualify in was novice standard.  While I was very proud of that run, she missed her dogwalk contact.  On a straight exit to a tunnel too, drat!

I had Zumi entered in the masters heat challenge runs for fun again.  Very wide on most turns but listening and even putting up with some late front crosses on my part.  A knocked bar on jumpers and a refusal on standard cost her Q's, but since it's time plus faults she actually placed first in her height and earned me a tiny cash prize!


Vito and I were a bit more out of sync.  Silly little things, mainly on my part.  And while he seemed to run pretty happy and decently fast on most his runs in the ring, he had trouble engaging and getting excited out of the ring.

Next agility trial won't be until August now!

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Right Sided Heeling with The Corgi

I can't believe it's been over 2 months since I started training right sided heeling with The Corgi.  2 months, and sadly not many sessions and thus results.

Lance still needs work on his pivots and doodles, but his forging is way down.  It's a bit difficult for him to physically do the pivoting now so I try not to do it too much.

So mainly I've started to work on forward motion.  It was no shock that his natural tendency of forging keeps trying to rear its head, but the wideness Lance has been showing was a surprise!  I've been working on doing a pivot before each reward to get Lance in the habit of moving in towards me.  Eventually when wideness is the problem I'll throw in a moving side step each time, but he's not quite ready for that.

The horse flies are just starting to appear at home and The Corgi thinks they are his mortal enemy.  I don't disagree, but I've never taken it to the point where I don't want to come off the porch!  Thus I'm really proud of Lance for doing a training session out in the yard yesterday.  You can see how hard he thinks about it after each cookie!


So not quite there with pretty heeling on the right, but he's having fun getting to learn something new!

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Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.- Roger Caras

Email: lkwaudby (at) gmail.com

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