Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Strummer's last winter class

Mr. 'I Was Born Ready' at your service

Strum had his last class for the winter at Boulder County Fairgrounds last night and it went better than expected. After his craziness at the fun match which was also at BCF I decided to break out his Gentle Leader. It's been a year or 2 since he's used it and it felt like a bit of a backslide having to use it since he's been doing so well without it but his barking and lunging at dogs in the ring have been on the increase despite my best efforts so I needed to do something. This turned out to be a great decision-he was a completely different dog. Oh he tried to lunge but as soon as he figured out he couldn't get anywhere he knocked it off for the most part and tried other things like lying down and offering his tricks to get attention when he felt himself getting out of control. Hurray for that, I was much more relaxed in class and able to focus on the lesson plus I had a lot more instances where I could reward him for watching the other dogs calmly. Hopefully this will turn him around and send his behavior back in the right direction. I'm going to bring the Gentle Leader with to his trial this weekend just in case but I won't use it unless I think he absolutely needs it. I think the distractions at the trial won't be nearly as bad as what he endures in class and he was fine without it at his first trial.

His jumping was much improved, he was collecting at long last though not as much as I would have liked in some places. He had trouble collecting for one handling manuever that he was doing no problem on Sat. and I believe it was mostly because he was distracted by the other dogs and the other ring and a dog even wandered onto our course right where he landed after a jump at one point. But I had him keep trying until he finally got it right. The distractions are Strum's biggest challenge right now so I was happy for the opportunity to work through them. He even did weaves consistently and got his entries at speed for me in class which was a first though the entries were easy.

Our instructor promised us a surprise for the last half of class and when I saw the Snooker flags come out I got all excited. I love Snooker, I know, it's not right but I do. I was the only one happy to see them though. Only one other person even knew how to play and she wasn't all that excited by the prospect though she's amazing at it. The only bad part was that just like regular Snooker we got whistled off the course at the first screw up and of course Strummy's very first ever Snooker run turned out to be a zero as he took a colored jump on the way to the first red. We got another shot at it after a rotation through the class and that time he made it through to the end though it wasn't pretty and I wished I could have gone back and worked through the rough patches. Technically we should have been whistled off about halfway through when Strum ran through the middle of the weave poles but my instructor must have felt bad for me and let me finish. He's going to be a USDAA judge and our class course will be one of his Snooker courses. If you happen to show under him and you get this course, woe to you because it was hard, one of the hardest I've seen for a while. We tried to convince him to make it easier by making the #7 threadle bidirectional in the opening but he didn't seem for it.

Dogwalk Practice
This morning I started working Strum on turns on the backyard set-up (4' table w/ plank). Silvia Trkman has a section on her website on turns but unfortunately I can't link directly to it. You can go here then click on 'our training' then click on the running contacts link then sift through the article. Anyway, she uses a jump and rotates it around the clock at the end of the dogwalk like you would for weave pole entries. She also puts a vertical piece of PVC pipe at the side of the end of the dogwalk so the dog has something to turn around. I don't have room in my yard for a jump so instead I moved the treat gizmo in an arc around the end of the dogwalk. Also I couldn't get a piece of PVC into the solid ground so I used a piece of 4x4 I had laying around and propped it up with a flower pot. This is probably harder to fade than the PVC but it's the best compromise at the moment. I hate using props in general but in this case I thought I'd give it a try because I don't want to lose the running contact. He ended up 10/10, no problem. The farthest I moved the gizmo was maybe 2:00 along the arc and it was 10' or so off the end of the plank so the worst case turn was not extreme at all. In the next few days I'll step it up a bit. Trouble is that my yard is too small, I'm going to have to get creative with the set-up and maybe only practice turns in one direction for a few days then move the set-up and switch directions. Once he's more solid on the full dogwalk at the practice field I'll start with turns out there and use a jump. I'm also going to start with distractions in the yard and fading the gizmo. Fun fun fun.


  1. The Gentle Leader makes such a difference. I used it when Lilly was young as a way to be sure I didn't lose her if she freaked out, then I faded it out.

    But our behaviorist insisted I go back to using it all the time, and it really did help. She hates it and rubs her face, if there's a break in the action.

    I'm not using it as much now that she's made such progress with her behavior mod work, but I would if she needed it.

    I can't wait to see Strum's finished product on the dog walk. Sounds like he's really getting it now.

  2. It is funny what a difference the GL makes. Cody was the same way. He doesn't need it any more but it had a huge calming effect on him when I first started training him.