Niamh went back to training last week but we didn't do any contact equipment. Her foot has healed well but you can see it was quite a deep cut. In all she had eight days off walking and obviously from training. It is completely better now and so we did some training on Sunday afternoon with Niamh and Kizzy.
I was pleased with her performance on the dog walk. She is definitely driving better to her final position without the creeping. I have to remember to fulfil my half of the contract though and let her get on with her job without turning to watch her and make sure I let her know what great job she's done. I did some run bys with fast releases and then another where I didn't release and bless her she didn't fail; she glued to the spot and earned extra sausages for that one!
Whether this works at Crufts we'll have to see. My main concern is that we haven't yet had the chance to perform the new behaviour in enough different places. I've always tried to get Niamh to as many different environments to train in the off-season because it definitely helps to strengthen her performance. So far we've managed: home; training school; Bernadette's and a training day at Polly's field. That's only two (sort of) new places because Niamh is obviously very comfortable at home and at our training school. She has also been to Bernadette's and Polly's field several times. So I guess what I'm trying to say without scaring myself too much is that she hasn't actually done her new style dog walk in a brand new environment. Oh well, I suppose Crufts is as good a place as any to try it out!
Having just finished reading Susan Garrett's book "Shaping Success" I am reminded how important this aspect of training is, i.e. habitat (environment) the "H" from her D.A.S.H. theory (the other letters standing for Desire, Accuracy and Speed).
I bought the book the week before last and am halfway through my second reading of it. It's the most enjoyable dog training book I've read. I read some of her original Buzz articles in Clean Run a long while back and found them interesting at the time. Lots of the ideas I have tried, learned second hand from various people, so it's good to read the original. I have been meaning to buy the book for ages and it's one of those that I wish I had got round to sooner. It has helped to clarify lots of things in my mind and makes me wish I had done things better with Niamh.
Word of warning though: don't read a book such as this at bed time like I've been doing. I read it for about half an hour before going to sleep, then spent the rest of the night dog training. That coupled with Abbey getting me up every night has exhausted me!
Anyway, back to actual training. Andy also did some bits with the Kizzle. He hasn't done much whilst she's been in season not because of that but because he's been struggling with a heavy work load which is being interrupted by migraines. They are getting fewer but still happening unfortunately. Kizzy hasn't been to training school as there is a male dog in her class and we didn't think it fair.
So, yesterday was her first proper training session in a while. Andy had thought hard about his last session at Bernadette's and was able to apply successfully the tweaks that Bernadette had advised. Kizzy was brilliant. She was driving down her A-Frame at a lovely speed. Andy was releasing her from different places and at least once I saw him release with no body movement at all. I am sorry I didn't capture this on video as it could well be a one off! Then we did some back chaining on the down dog walk and this ramped up her speed to her stop position nicely. The target stayed in Andy's pocket for the whole session. We didn't need it for Niamh or Kizzy so that's a result!
The other really good thing is that Kizzy is finally flipping between food and tug toy. Andy did some feeding for her A-frame (not all) and then she was released on to two jumps and a set of weaves. At the end of the sequence she was really tugging well. Andy had forgotten her duck on a rope (bad Andy) so I had to lend Niamh's knot on a rope and Kizzy didn't care she just wanted to tug; anything would have done. That's a big step and great to see. I could also see the intensity of the tug game had strengthened and she was really going for it. Excellent ..... good job!
We are going to have another session this week and I'll attempt to take some video.
I have made another promise to myself and that's to improve my start line routine with Niamh. She waits without problem (I might regret saying that come Saturday) but we drag into the ring and I pull her around on her lead and it all looks ugly. It has grown from my fear of Niamh chasing other dogs when they're working, something she has been known to do on more than one occasion! Anyway, it's work in progress. I doubt that I'll be rehearsing this aspect of our start line at Crufts!