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.