Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
I have started him with just two poles. I set him up with the poles in front of him, one to the left and the other to his right. The hard part is letting him figure it out by himself. I don't talk to him or prompt him in any way. That is really hard! Finally, after about 15 minutes, Jack walked between the poles and I clicked and treated him for that! Yippee!! After he walked through the poles again and again, getting clicked and treated, he started running through them to get the click and treat! Wow!
Now we will try it again tomorrow and see if he remembers. This is fun!
Walking in Obedience!
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
What does grooming have to do with training, you ask? Well, plenty! Allow me to explain.
When I first got Jack, he was 9-months-old. He is almost 5-years-old now. He has had issues with his feet all along. "You wanna touch my feet? Well, I don't think so! Let me show you my teeth!" So, our grooming sessions are kind of continual. Jack does not like the electric trimmer anywhere near his feet. He tolerates it everywhere else. So our "grooming dance" has become more fluid, less jerky as time has passed.
I thought that since Jack loves attention from me, I could work on teaching him to Shake Hands. I would use the clicker. I would get down to his level and touch the back of his leg with one hand while the other hand is in front of his paw. If he moved his paw, ever so slightly TOWARDS my hand, I would click and treat. I continued this for some time until now all I have to do is lower my hand to his front and he raises his paw and rests it in my hand.
That shake-hands trick is working well in regards to trimming his feet. So now when I trim him, I alternate with some cookies and pats. We work our way down to the feet, alternating the trimming with some nice pats and rubs. Now for the feet. After the past "fights" to trim his feet, I have discovered that he would rather I use the scissors on his feet. It doesn't look as good as I would like, but it passes. As for now, it still takes more than one day to trim his nails. But that is OK with me.
One of the most important things about the grooming process is after I am finished with the combing, brushing, trimming, and clipping. I am teaching Jack to lay down on the table on his side, with his head touching the table. This "Head Down" trick allows me to give him a massage. We do it the same way with his other side. After the massage and time to chill out and relax, I give Jack the freedom to run around the back yard, full tilt, without any encumberances. No leash, just the grass under his feet and wind in his face and the time for him to be a dog. I enjoy watching him have a total blast and when he has had enough, he comes to me and I snap on his leash and we go inside the house. Peace one moment in time.
Find us walking in obedience!
Saturday, December 5, 2009
So, what has been happening since July? Well, on Labor Day weekend, we participated in the Dog Obedience Clubs of Florida, DOCOF, state competition in Orlando. We had competed last year and had a lot more distractions and reactions to those distractions. It was hard to concentrate. I was nervous and that travelled down the leash to Jack. We were excused from the group exercises after Jack had some major zooming issue. I was totally embarrassed. But, that was wise of the judge as he didn't want Jack to interfere with other dog and handler teams.
However, this year we did a little better. Jack still zoomed the ring, but not nearly as bad as last year. However, his on-leash portion was significantly better than last year. We were allowed to perform the group exercises this year. Jack sat for the sit portion, but laid down with about 10 seconds left in the 1-minute sit. I could not get him to lay down for the 3-minute down.
We still had fun during that weekend. And it was a learning experience.
In October, the Orlando Dog Training Club had it's obedience and rally trials. I had entered Jack in Wildcard Open and Pre-Novice. On Saturday, we went into the Open ring and worked on the heeling portion (off-leash). Jack lagged a bit and then ignored me somewhat. We did not do the Figure-8 exercise and we were able to do the Retrieve-on-the-Flat, but lost it for the rest of the exercises. Our Pre-Novice fared better, though we came in last place due mainly to lots of handler errors (that's me). I didn't realize I was not allowed to encourage or give Jack any extra commands while performing the exercises. I will know better next time.
And on Sunday at the trial, I was upset with Jack not paying attention to me during our warm-ups that I scratched our entry. I felt that I would be more of a hindrance in the ring than Jack would be. My feelings would travel down the leash and it would not be pretty.
So, since then, I have been working the Ruff Love program by Susan Garrett. The purpose is to build up the relationship between Jack and me. It is taking a longer amount of time than I expected. But, I feel it is worth the commitment of my time and energy for our relationship.
Until next time, we are walking in obedience!
Saturday, July 18, 2009
First things first. On Wednesday, July 15, we rented some time at ODTC with Jeff as our judge. It was a very nice showing. Jack was just a wee-bit skittish on the Stand-For-Exam due to some unexpected movement distraction by the judge. We did it again and Jack really stuck it! Bravo! Our Recall exercise was really fast and well executed. I was happy and Jack enjoyed the time in the ring.
Now, on to our Wildcard Novice run in Deland under Mr. Jeffrey Kern (not the same "Jeff" as our Wednesday judge). Jack and I were third in the ring. The judge asked which exercise we would like to receive no deductions on and we selected the Heel-On-Leash exercise. So, to start, we heeled to the corner where the judge said "Left Turn!" and Jack wanted to continue straight ahead instead of turning. I almost tripped over him, but we continued through a Fast and then to the next corner and another Left Turn. Jack kept forging ahead, but he did sit on the halt. We did our About Turn and then our Right Turn. Our Slow was good. Another About Turn and then we had our Figure-8 exercise. Not too bad there, but we had a few tight leashes throughout the exercise. Stand-For-Exam was next. Jack stood and then the judge came to him, whereupon Jack started wiggling around. It was time for the Heel-Off-Leash and when I looked at Jack, I saw his eyes go wide and he just started running around the ring. The zoomies continued until the judge asked if I would continue the exercise using the leash. So, after our second go around with the heeling on leash, it was time for the recall exercise. Well...that was truly beautiful! Jack did a perfect front and a swing-finish wonderfully! The judge said it was really nice to finish with a positive!
Our final time in the ring was for the Sits and Downs. We heeled into the ring wonderfully! I had my dog with me! We began with the One-Minute Sit. Almost to the end, Jack just laid down. OK, we can still perform the Three-Minute Down exercise. Right? He knows how to lay down. He just did it. But, alas, not today.
We were the strongest team today in Wildcard Novice. We held all the other teams up!
During our drive home, I had time to think about our performance. Despite the fact we didn't do well, I still love Jack and wouldn't trade him for any other dog. I know we have plenty of work to do to be able to show despite the distractions. Jack knows everything that is required for Novice. That has been proven in our Prep-To-Show classes. It just takes time.
And another thing. About my relationship with God. Sometimes I do the zoomies and God stands there, shakes His head, but He still loves me and wouldn't trade me for anyone. Should I not do the same for Jack?
So, we are still Walking in Obedience.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
Our focus this past week was on the Down exercise. I began this training like I have been doing all my focus exercises. Jack really works for his food. The way I started it was to place Jack in a down (I use the command - Floor). I would then proceed to fix his meal. I would set his food dish on the floor. During the first meal session I did not go out of sight, but I had him lay there and wait until I allowed him to get up and eat his food.
During each subsequent session, I started to go out of sight for progressively longer durations. Also during these sessions my roommate would be watching Jack to see if he moves from position. If Jack moves out of position, my roomate lets me know and Jack is totally surprised when I "catch" the "oops" and correct his position. So far, we are up to one minute out-of-sights and Jack is staying put.
Now, on to what we worked on in class. The first thing we did was our "Short L Practice", which is the smaller version of the Novice Heel pattern. We "offer, but do not lure" a cookie after each turn. If the dog isn't there to get the cookie, "Oh well, better pay attention and be there the next time." We did that well. Jack missed his cookie on the left turn just once. After that he was right where he needed to be to get the cookie. Three cheers for Jack!
The second exercise was Stand For Exam alternated with Sit-Stay and Down-Stay. Jack performed his "Sits and Downs" wonderfully. His Stand For Exam needs more work. Time for another trip to PetsMart for more "flooding" with this exercise. That will be my focus exercise this week.
Our third exercise was Directed Jumping. The distance between our jumps is increasing. The distance between me and Jack is increasing. We are both "getting it". One time Jack did not go over the jump. Oops! That was not Jack's fault. I forgot to look where I was pointing Jack to go. I was looking at him, so that drew him away from the jump. I have to remember to look where I am pointing!
Finally, I have to brag about Jack's Leave It response. When we were going into the ring for the "Sit-Down-Stand" exercise, I dropped my treat bag and some of the treats hit the floor. Yikes!! Jack is a vacuum cleaner when it comes to what is on the floor!! Well, I told him to leave it and he did! He watched me pick up every last piece and did not eat any of the pieces!
Tomorrow is Prep-To-Show.
Walking in Obedience!
Sunday, July 5, 2009
What a difference a week makes! This time we did a whole lot better! Jack performed his sits every time I stopped. His Stand-for-Exam was solid. Our Figure-8 was OK. Not very well executed because of my tendency to step into Jack's space as we halted, throwing Jack off to the left to avoid my feet. I don't blame him for that. If I were him, I would get out of the way too!
Continuing with the evaluation of the Prep class, our Heel-off-Leash was much better than last week. I still lost him on one of the straights. He was more interested in what cookies were still on the floor. I just kept on walking and I could hear him running to catch up with me. I had my dog with me again! He chose to heel and he did not run out of the ring!! Success!! Our Recall was OK too. I still need to work with his fronts. They are still crooked, not all of them though.
Overall, I was happy with this performance. Yet I know we need to practice more with sits close to heel position, with fronts more straight, with me stopping without stepping into Jack, and with increasing Jack's attention to me.
Our homework for the Prep-to-Show class this week is to concentrate on:
- Look - Get and maintain Jack's attention to me
- Close - Increase our lessons to get Jack to maintain heel position when heeling and when we halt
- Come Front - Utilize his sit box, stand with my legs apart and slightly bent, tossing cookies through my legs and not requiring him to front -- make it FUN! He is already fast in his recall, I just have to work on his "front accuracy"
- Halt - Halting straight. This is more important for me to stop with my right foot and then bring my left foot up to meet the right one -- I need to think and practice this method until it is in my memory. When I stop with my left foot first, I have that tendency to drift toward Jack
Walking in Obedience!
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Once it was time for class, we were ready to go!
Our first exercise was with hula-hoops. Our instructor, Linda, had laid out 6 hoops in the ring, 3 on each side. Our job was to heel around a single hoop. We made large circles, one with the dog between us and the hoop, so we were going counter-clockwise. The other way, clockwise, was with the dog on the outside, which made the dog go faster to keep up. The purpose of this exercise, or game, was to figure out the right speed, and stride, to use to keep your dog interested. With the dog on the inside, you can know right where your dog is -- you can see him and make eye-contact with him. With the dog on the outside, you are looking where you are going, which is away from your dog's location. There is an element of trust here. You can't see if your dog is in heel position. It really helps to have a second pair of eyes watching to see when your dog is where he is supposed to be - heel position - so you can provide the cookie feedback to your dog.
Our second exercise was the Drop-on-Recall, where you call your dog to you and signal the dog to stop and drop to the floor and then call them the rest of the way to you. With this one I had 3 drop sticks. I placed them in different locations on the mat. I first did a straight recall with Jack running non-stop to me. The next time I tried another straight recall. The third time I signaled Jack to drop at the first drop stick. He did good and slid into a drop and slid into the drop stick. I was happy with that. I tried another one where I would have him drop at the last drop stick, the one closest to me. Jack missed it and just ran over it and finally dropped about 2 to 3 yards from me. Oh well, one more time we tried, this time at the middle drop stick. Jack was sweet! He dropped to the floor and slid into the drop stick. I was happy with that! He dropped as soon as I told him to that last time. So we ended on a positive.
Our third exercise was Directed Jumping, where you have your dog in a sit at one end of the ring, you at the other, and two jumps between you. It is easier to see in your mind's eye if you think of a baseball diamond. Home plate is where you are. Your dog is at 2nd base. The bar jump is at 1st base and the high jump is at 3rd base. At the beginning of this training, you teach your dog to "Follow your hand". Your right hand will direct your dog to your right, over the bar jump. Your left hand directs your dog to your left, over the high jump. Now, of course, the jumps might not be in those locations all the time. You just are trying to teach your dog to jump over the jump that you are directing him to and coming to front and then finish the exercise. Now Linda teaches the parts in order to put together the whole. That is great with me. I would rather nibble at something and look at it from different angles than have everything shoved down my throat with no explanation of what to do or why to do it.
Anyway, on to the directed jumping. The baseball diamond we worked with was smaller than the actual ring size. I placed the jumps at an angle where Jack was square to them no matter which one I directed him to jump. I placed the jumps about ten feet apart. I had Jack sit at "2nd base" while I stood at "home plate". Test one - I directed Jack to the high jump. Jack ran towards the jump but, at the last second, decided to run around the jump to get the cookie. Oops! I goofed! I was too far away from the jumps. So I moved in closer. Test two - I directed Jack to the high jump again. Success! He jumped the jump, got the cookie, I backed up and called him to come front and he ran to front! Yippee!! Test three - I directed Jack to the bar jump. Success! Yippee!! Test four - I moved further back and directed Jack back to the high jump and...Success!! Test five - Original "home plate" position - I directed Jack to the bar jump and he jumped it, got his cookie, and came to front! Wonderful, smart dog!
We finished the night on successes and are looking forward to Prep-to-Show, Wednesday night. Let us see how it goes after a week of practice.
Walking in Obedience!
So, we went into the ring to perform the AKC Novice program. We were judged by Joyce, who was assisted by Michelle. Here are the notes I wrote down regarding each exercise:
- Heel on leash - Jack lagged a bit on the heeling - What to do to correct this - I need to inject more enthusiasm in the heeling. Make it fun for both of us. Work more "Choose to heel" games in our training. Increase the speed of the heeling. The faster we go, the more Jack seems to enjoy the exercise, the more attention he gives me. Not to mention, the more exercise I get!
- Figure 8 - I purposely made the circles larger than normal to change it up on Jack. I will be going back to the normal size next week.
- Stand for exam - Jack did great on this one. I will also ask for different people to perform a Novice exam on Jack during our practices at PetsMart. I would like to have men, women, and people who wear hats do the exam. The more people I can get to help me with this exercise, the less of a chance of failure at a trial.
- Heel off leash - Jack zoned out on the heeling. See #1 above for my homework to correct this.
- Recall - Jack was really fast with this. He LOVES to run and it shows. The only problem was his fronts were a bit crooked. - What to do to correct this - I will use the front box to ensure he is sitting where he is supposed to be sitting. I will use chairs and stools to angle my legs to form a chute as a target. I will also toss cookies between my legs and have Jack run through them to get the cookies.
A further note about the heeling portions of the Novice program concerns the automatic sit on each halt. I had to remind Jack to sit on most of the heeling. What to do to correct this - I need to perform bunny hops with him. I need to make a fuss over him when he is in position, "Yes sir! Good sit! You are really smart! Good boy!" I need to work with him more often so that any time that he is sitting in heel position he gets a GREAT cookie reward for being such a wonderful, smart dog!
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
The Versatility Two (V2) class is on-going. There are many lessons in this class. The lessons range from the Novice - Companion Dog (CD) level through the Open - Companion Dog Excellent (CDX) level through the Utility - Utility Dog (UD) level.
V2 is quite different from V1. It is more involved and more is expected from the dog and handler teams. While in class, different teams are simultaneously working the three levels. Some teams may be at the Utility level, others at the Open level, and more at the Novice level. There are many more distractions in this class.
Now, don't get me wrong. Jack and I graduated from V1 and were ready to begin V2. We have been in V2 for at least six semesters, but we still have areas where we need to train. Jack is a Cocker Spaniel, a highly energetic dog. Without enough exercise, he gets the zoomies. And there have been many times where I have been so embarrassed with his antics in and out of the ring. And this is my fault. Not enough exercise. Sure, we practice and do our homework at least five or six days each week. But, not enough actual running is done outside where he can burn up some of his pent-up energy unless the weather is cool enough. We live in Central Florida and the weather is HOT, HOT, HOT down here. Especially during the summer. So I am going to need to invest in a treadmill to use inside the air-conditioned house on a daily basis in order to control the zoomies.
So, now we are at the point in our training where I can write about the specific training issues we are having. Yesterday, we worked on flat-work. No jumps. Primarily HEEL work. We worked on something called the Rally Back-Up. We heeled forward and then backward into a corner and turned the corner and continued backwards and stopped and heeled forward again, made a right turn and continued to the starting point. Then we did it again. And again. And we were allowed to increase the treats since this was something new to learn.
We worked on Recalls with distractions. This is when Jack got the zoomies and ran around the ring and outside the ring. How embarrassing! However, he did come to me and made a beautiful front the first time. After that came the zoomies. But, after that show, we went back into the ring and did some recalls and fronts which taught both of us that we were not getting out of the lesson!
Our last lesson yesterday was the beginning of scent discrimination work. We were taught how to scent the dumbell or leather article. Jack and I had been practicing this at home, so we used one of our leather articles (a small dumbell made out of leather) with no other items around it. We did this OK during class. So, now we will work on more "Find-It" games at home, kind of like the old "Hide and Seek" game where I hide the article and tell Jack to find it and bring it to me.
Jack really loves to retrieve, but sometimes wants to chew up and eat the toy, leather article, or glove. So we are taking it slow and I am shaping how he is to "Play the game".
Tonight we are going through a Prep-To-Show class. The judge will call the Novice exercises from start to finish. I will take some notes on how we did and what we need to work on before our next Wildcard Novice class at our next Obedience Trial in Deland, FL in July.
Walking in Obedience!
The Orlando Dog Training Club (ODTC), has all the classes based on an 8-week long session. I just thought of each group session as a semester. The Beginner class usually takes one semester to complete and the V1 class takes two semesters to complete. Since Jack and I took two semesters to graduate from the Beginner class, it would be a safe assumption that we would need four semesters to be able to graduate from V1. That was exactly the case with us. And it was not Jack's fault that we had to repeat the class. It was my fault. You know, if you don't always do your homework, chances are rather high that you won't be promoted.
We graduated from Beginners and went into V1 with a build of excitement. One of the first things I remember about the class was the Warm-Up exercise. It was a pretty quick, one minute warm-up. It was a continuation of the Watch-Me exercise in the Beginners class. We learned more things in V1 that were more action-oriented. I learned that Jack actually LOVED jumping and running around the Swish Pole. The more action that was involved made Jack happier and helped me gain confidence in my training.
Yes, V1 was an enjoyable class. Jack and I were challenged frequently, especially with the Leave-It exercise. We are still working on improving Jack's response to the Leave-It command.
There were many exercises we learned in V1:
- Floor (our version of Down)
- Release word (we used OK, then changed it due to confusion in everyday use. We now use Peaches)
- Spin (one is left and other is right, your choice)
- Twirl (one is left and other is right, your choice)
- Jumping over bar-jumps and high-jumps
- Weave through legs
Our time in the V1 class was a real learning experience. The ODTC Training Director and your V1 instructor determine if you and your dog are ready for graduation and entrance into Canine College and Higher Education - or Versatility Two (V2).
Yes, we graduated!
Sunday, June 21, 2009
And then time marched on. Memories faded and the daily grind of working for a living took over my life. Other life experiences happened. My mother passed away in 2003 and I underwent heart surgery in 2004. Enter 2006 as described in the opening post and then Jack and I became part of the ODTC life.
The Beginner Class was eye-opening for me. This was no PetsMart training. Far from it. We started at the beginning and began to learn how to be a team. At first I was there, with Jack, to learn basic obedience. We began re-learning basic commands like Sit, Down, Stay, and Come. There were other things we were learning. How to concentrate on each other. Name recognition. How to play together. Tug. A hungry dog is easier to teach and control than one that is full from dinner. Then I learned we could join ODTC and pay a reduced rate for classes. I was happy about that, and I know Jack really liked to train.
I learned the vocabulary of dog trainers:
- Cookies were not people food. Cookies were what you used to help train your dog. The stinkier and the softer, the better. Liver, chicken, steak, hotdogs, or anything pre-packaged in the dogfood aisle. Whatever your dog responds to will work.
- "Do you have a dog?" meant "Is your dog concentrating on you?"
- Place wasn't a location where you live, as in "Come over to my place." Place meant a location to send your dog so you can answer the front door without having to hold back an excited dog. We are still trying to work on this one.
This class was considered elementary/junior-high-school work. Everything learned in the beginner class helps to teach your dog to be a good citizen. And it helps you too. You know, things like picking up after your dog. Courtesy to others with dogs. Courtesy to others without dogs. Courtesy to all. You learn to ask permission to pet someone's dog before petting the dog. You learn to keep a short leash on your dog to help control his frenzied curiousity and "Let's be friends!" attitude with other dogs and other people. You learn that not all people are dog people and not all dog people want your dog's attention where it shouldn't be.
Jack and I needed more than just one go-around with the Beginner class. We repeated the class. Sometimes that is necessary. I didn't feel confident enough to go to on to the next level of obedience -- what I call Canine High School, or Versatility One.
The Beginner class lays the foundation for future learning. And this learning is life-long, whether you continue the obedience, rally, agility, conformation, pet-therapy, tracking, or hunting paths. An obedient dog is a good citizen and shows you care about the feelings of other people.
Here is a picture of Jack playing with his favorite buddy, a golden retriever.
Jack does know how to cool his jets after play.
Here is Jack upon graduation from PetsMart training class.
So, now on to the Orlando Dog Training Club! Yippee!!!
Saturday, June 20, 2009
First a little background about how Jack came into my life. I had been searching for a mid-size dog to help me continue to recover from heart surgery. I went to the local animal shelters and scoured the newspapers for "my dog." Over the course of six months I looked, but was unable to "click" with my special dog. A friend of mine suggested that I go to PetsMart because there are different rescue groups that utilize the store to find homes for homeless pets.
The next weekend I went to my local PetsMart to check the dogs out. I saw this black and gray, shaggy, older dog. The sign said he was about 5 years old. I thought he resembled a sheepdog, or at least had some sheepdog in him since he was so shaggy. We looked at each other and something was there, a connection. I asked to see him, while telling the person that I was looking for an older dog and he seemed to fit the bill.
Well...imagine my surprise when I was told he was a Cocker Spaniel and he was 9 months old and not 5 years old! Wow! A teenager with four legs! The connection had been made between us, though, and I would not back down. So I brought him home in January, 2006.
We began our training by walking around the neighborhood three times per day. Jack learned my work schedule and we got along great. Because I adopted him, we began our obedience training at PetsMart. We needed more training, so we went to the Orlando Dog Training Club for help.