Sunday, 22 February 2009

Zeki's Training

I haven't been very good at posting on the blog just lately. The usual excuses come to mind and I won't bore you with them!

Zeki has been absent from training school and obedience for the past two and a half weeks as she's been in season. I'm hoping she might be OK to return this week but we'll have to wait and see.

Being absent from school doesn't mean we've been idle though. We have two strands of training: one is to progress our agility type skills and the other is to work on our naturally excellent chasing skills; that is to say we are actually trying to tone the latter down a little! Zeki has a very strong eye and a very strong chase instinct. I've always known this but if I'm honest I've been a rather laid back about doing enough to correct it.

Several things have happened to make me work harder at this: one being Zeki joining a football match, much to my horror and great embarrassment and another having our rather weak "stays" outed in a training session at, of all places, Bernadette's. Although I was again embarrassed it was actually a good thing because it gave me a kick up the proverbial and incentivised me to work harder on these aspects of Zeki's behaviour.

During the last few weeks I have also been with Zeki to Lesley's for a lesson. We worked on her target behaviour and I came away with good ideas and feeling positive. Things go pretty well when we're on our own but as soon as distraction is involved in comes the want to chase.

The foundation class which Leah takes is wonderful training for us because it gets us doing stuff with loads of activity going on around us as well as honing some of our core skills. I thoroughly enjoy this class and really think it's fantastic grounding for young dogs.

I have also started training Zeki's weaves again. I did a tiny bit a while back but could see she was going to pick up the process quite quickly so stopped as I didn't want to upright the poles too soon. Now she is almost 12 months old (can't believe that as I write it!) so about three weeks back I started training them again. In all she's had about seven or eight sessions on the weave poles and I'm very pleased with her progress so far. We have lots more work to do on entries but she is definitely getting the idea.

We started our seesaw training for the first time last week with Bernadette and this was done table to table using squeezey cheese with sausage stuck in the end as reward. This is an excellent idea as the cheese acts as a glue to stick your main tit bit in but also acts as extra reward whilst the dog is in final position as it takes a while for them to lick it all off.

I don't have a table at home so after discussion with my seesaw mentor I progressed straight to recalling Zeki to the end of the seesaw with me lowering it whilst rewarding her and gradually building up the noise as the seesaw hits the ground. We have had three sessions of this in the garden and so far so good. In the little video below you can see our attempt, this was the third session. I have no doubt that all the work we have done on wobble boards and the stuff we did at Hannah's co-ordination and balance course help in making the seesaw a less scary piece of equipment.

I have worked very hard on Zeki's stays over the past couple of weeks. That's not to say I hadn't worked on them before I simply hadn't proofed them enough with the right distractions and in different environments. So now we work on stays with football going on; when I'm using the hose of the vacuuum; raking leaves or gravel; sweeping the back yard; working another of my dogs etc. etc. I would like to think they have improved and I've included a tiny bit of this in the video. Next time we go to Bernadette's we will try it out with Bernadette running Zen - now that's a test for any dog because Zen is so exciting.

The other thing I've been working really hard on is my own ability to remember lefts and rights. Those who know me will understand the huge challenge this is! But, I think I have cracked it. I have always tried to remember by looking at the hand with my rings or my watch but that is too slow so I had to think of something different. I started by using my contact lens method .... don't laugh please! I always put my left lens in first and so I started thinking via my eyes rather than checking my hands and this was sort of working. Then at a recent training day I attended we were discussing why is it that the majority of people appear more comfortable running sequences left to right than right to left and we concluded that it's because we are conditioned to this in the way we learn, i.e. reading from left to right. So now rather than getting stressed about thinking which is left and which is right, I simply apply my new theory, i.e. I simply relate left to the side of the page I would start reading and right to the opposite side. I don't know if this makes sense but if you can fathom my poor articulation it might help some who have a similar problem!

The result is that I feel much more confident in using the words I have taught Zeki, i.e. left and right. I can cue her in good time because the process is becoming more natural to me. I have to work at it but I figure it's good brain exercise! You see some examples in my little video!

I am still undecided about Zeki's contacts (that is A-Frame and dog walk). We have a plank on a step and at the moment we are running it out to a target pot several yards away. I mark and reward her running through and stop her if she jumps at all. It's good fun and she is very confident in this exercise. I guess we have about 85% success in terms of not jumping. However if I move forward of the contact point then that percentage drops quite dramatically. Alongside this I am continuing with her target practise and so maybe I'll pull the two together. I don't know yet! Bernadette mentions in her latest posting that she procrastinates, well I'm sorry but I'm clearly the leader in this field!

Anyway, here's our little video. Enjoy!


  1. Wow, those Stays are coming on! Pretty intense distraction there.

    She's really looking good, Nancy. Hope she can rejoin the class on Tuesday.

    Can you also categorically state that no sausages were harmed in the making of your video? No, I thought not! :-)

  2. Wow I have never been able to work one of my dogs and have another dog stay! I am impressed! Maybe I can accomplish this with Zaz and Itzy! :-) Nah..not likely!

  3. WOW! Zeki is brilliant! She is very focused and the stay is so perfect! Now, can I come ana have a STAY lesson with you, please?