I took Strummer to a NADAC trial 20 minutes from my house this weekend to work on his barking/lunging issues. It was a one ring, indoor trial, no pressure atmosphere so ideal for him. I've been working on click/treating him for watching other dogs in the ring without reacting but if I sense things are too much for him and he's going to go over his threshold I'll reward him for staring at me too. He started out o.k. at around 15 feet from the ring but after 5 minutes or so he went into a lunge so I marched him out right away. On the way out of the building I ran into some people I knew so I stood chatting for a good 15-20 minutes, clicking and treating Strummy all the while as he sat calmly by my side. (As an aside, I was making a quiet clicking sound with my mouth, not using a real clicker). Then I took him back ringside and he was absolutely perfect for the entire Novice class. It was as if he had suddenly located his brain. Maybe the crazy boy is finally growing up. A couple people who've known him since I got him noticed how much better he was being in general so that was encouraging. I left after that, no point pushing my luck.
Sunday I took him back again and this time he was perfect the entire time he was there, no problem walking around the arena with all the other dogs or sitting ringside while all the other dogs waited their turn. We hung out about 5 feet from the ring through the whole Elite class and he did great, no barking, lunging, staring, etc. and his pupils were only a bit bigger than normal. He was hardly the picture of relaxation but what a huge improvement. There was snow fencing up around the ring so maybe that was blocking his view enough so that the motion of the other dogs didn't set him off. Also, the contacts had the rubber surface so there was no noise of toenails running down sandy plywood which sets him off. Plus no teeter banging, that had to help as well. I suppose NADAC's wacky rules are good for something.
I need to see quite a few more weekends like this before I'll start to have confidence in him but it sure felt good to see such a marked improvement. Sometimes I think the behavioral training successes are more exciting than the agility successes.
I've also been working daily on his weave poles. I've abandoned the 2x2 method in favor of the channel weaves, mostly because I have a set of channels and a DVD detailing a specific training process that's easy for me to follow. I thought it would be fun to learn the 2x2 method just for the sake of learning something new but it's hard when all you have is a book to go by and noone you know who's ever done it to help troubleshoot. I was stalled at a certain step in the process and couldn't seem to progress past it so I decided to take the easy way out and go for the channels. So far Strummy thinks it's pretty fun and he gets less overstimulated and stressed than he was getting with the 2x2 method. In just 2 weeks he's gone from the poles being wide open to the poles being 5" apart. I spent a lot of time at the start with the poles wide open because I think the hardest thing for him to understand was that he was meant to run all the way through the channel. Once he figured that out and we had a 100% success rate for several days in a row I started closing the channels inch by inch and he's breezing through it now. When I got to 5" he had 100% success the first and second days. Tomorrow we'll try 4".
Still working on proofing his contacts on a practice board. If I stand in different positions he'll go into his down facing me rather than facing forward on the board and he's getting frustrated because he's not getting rewarded for it. Still need to work on that before I put him on the dogwalk or A-frame. I want that end behavior perfect, I figure once I get it just the way I want it on the board it shouldn't take all that long to get it on the contact equipment. I'm tired of having dogs with contact issues and I'll take however long I have to to get it right this time.
Lots of running and swimming last week too. I finally made it back to the pool after a whole month off and it wasn't as awful as I thought it would be. In all about 4800 yards or so for the week. My long run last Sunday was awful as that stupid Turkey Trot had taken more out of me than I'd thought and I got out too far before realizing I didn't feel so great. I couldn't even walk home because it was too cold and I wasn't dressed for walking so I had to gut it out. This Sunday was much better though, ran for an hour and a bit and I finally had some spring back in my legs. Probably put in around 12-13 miles for the week plus 5-6 miles or so of walking. No biking, weather was too cold and I'm a wimp. Need to start on a strength training regime. Yep, gonna start any day now.