Friday, 23 March 2012

Tidey Training

It's about time I did an update on Tidey's training thus far.   I am having a lot of fun with her for sure.  She is full on and sometimes I find it challenging to channel her energies in the right direction.     She is a very happy, fun loving dog and as far as she is concerned life is all about her.  She has so many expressions and really loves to play to an audience.  She is bright eyed and full of life.  She loves people and children and in the main has got over her slight spookiness with some other dogs. I am glad I had her spayed young because it has definitely helped with the spooky part of her.    I love her attitude but find it hard to switch her off sometimes as she is full on at home when I'm around.  I am not complaining though!

I am very glad that she is crate trained as I think I would find her impossible to manage otherwise.   On top of that she would wear herself (and me) out far too quickly as she loves to watch everything that's going on and gets very physical about it.   I haven't really done crate games to exacting standards but have worked enough with it to make the crate a) a place Tidey is very happy to be and understands to go to after she has worked (well most of the time, sometimes after she has visited a few friends first) and b) a place that has taught her some self-control which for her is a huge thing!

We continue to work on the screaming and lunging when other dogs are running and the counter-conditioning with a toy seems to have worked really well for this.   We will see for sure how well it has worked when the agility season kicks off in April.  My plan is to use a different toy for this type of work which is of less value than her training toys.  She likes the big cage balls on a fleece so we will use those around agility and keep her really high value "sputniks" on a rope for her agility training.   Karen bought her one of these when she was a tiny puppy and she just loved it more than anything.  Then catastrophe, the rope gradually got thinner until it broke and no more toy!   To my horror it's really hard to find these toys, Leah, Vicky and I searched the whole of Crufts to no avail.  Then at training last week, Tracy Moerel presented me with one that her dogs weren't really that keen on.  Caroline King saw the toy and said hang on a minute I've had one of those hanging up in my van for yonks, you can have it.  So now we have two which is fantastic as I can use both in one session which helps with catching Tidey after each run.  Thank you girls, I am in your debt!  They are great toys as they have a good length of rope but the toy is quite small so fits in my pocket.  How sad I am!    Karen has bought a similar toy that she found so hopefully we will have three very soon!

 A "Sputnik"

I have two major frustrations in my training and will be absolutely honest and admit that at times my patience has been pushed to the limit (and beyond if I am saying I'm being honest here!)   One is Tidey's "waits" and the other is her habit of running off with her toy at the end of a training sequence and not coming back to me.     I know both are partly my fault and I have done something wrong and so I have to really keep my frustrations in check so as not to stress Tidey.  

With her "waits" or shall we call them "non-waits" she would simply get up and follow me and so I have done absolutely masses of training with these.  We train them every single day on our walks when Zeki and Niamh and racing around and I would say we have a success rate of 99%.  I can do just about anything and she won't break.   Now we have to transfer this to the agility arena and in the last couple of weeks we seem to have turned a corner.    

With her running off, I have listened to various peoples' advice but sometimes the conflicting ideas become too much.  So, I have chosen to listen to just one person and work with Tidey rather than against her.  She will drop into a down so I can go and fetch the toy if it's thrown or I just ask someone to held onto the rope (or stand on it) until I get there rather than throw the toy.   In other words, I have stopped asking her to bring the toy back to me as this causes her stress.  If I want a reliable retrieve then I have to work on it separately and importantly away from agility.  That said her retrieve is pretty reliable elsewhere, I think in relation to agility it is all connected with her chase instinct and her very strong want to get to people.

I try to remember always to break her tuggy reward into small parts, in other words we tug then I ask her to leave the tug and do a trick, we tug again and so on.  This hopefully builds in her a feeling that when a tuggy game ends it doesn't mean end of fun but beginning of more fun.   This works well until the situation I describe below occurs.

There is another element linked to this behaviour (running off) which I find even more frustrating.  Tidey loves to tug as I have said but if she senses another dog being set up to do an exercise she will drop the toy to go and chase.  Very often she will target the handler as much as the dog.  She wriggles like a worm and is on full attention-seeking mode.   The only way I can think to manage this right now is to ask people to wait until I've got her, but I will not grab at her as this will only make the situation worse.   So if people are kind enough to wait (as all my training mates are) then I work on sending Tidey to her crate, if this isn't possible I ask her to "give me her collar" and we continue to play with me holding the collar.  I am so glad I teach all my dogs to love having their collar held from tiny puppies.   Gradually I hope that by staying positive and making sure Tidey is rewarded for the right behaviour (rather than me panicking or getting frustrated) we will break this cycle of behaviour.  I am also planning to work on stays (on lead to start with) with other dogs working around Tidey.  This was the thing I found worked best of all with Zeki's chase instinct.   I seem to attract dogs with strong eyes and strong chase instinct.  The only dog I have ever had who didn't do this was Abbey, she only ever had eyes for me. 

 My beautiful Abbey by Terry Insull

So, I have really focused on my training challenges above, what about all the positives of which there are many!   Tidey is keen and loves doing things with me.  She enjoys trick training for treats but prefers her toy for anything related to agility or speed.  I am very lucky that she loves her toy so much and it is up to me to make sure that the value of this reward remains high.

We are working on her forward drive and have just started to add in  the progressive type of cross behinds, i.e. where the main focus is still forward but with a slight change of direction.   To my mind these are the most important things to be working on now.  Things like front crosses, whilst important, are easier to train because the natural intuitive behaviour of the dog is to turn towards you; whereas the intuitive behaviour when you rear cross can be for your dog to turn against the flow to find you rather than keep driving forward with a head check to acknowledge that you have changed side.    I definitely think that the work we did from puppyhood has helped to shape the right behaviour for rear crosses, i.e. setting Tidey in a static position and stepping from side to side behind her.  Each time I step she has to switch her head to follow me without getting up and trying to spin to find me. We really enjoy this game as it's also a good proofing for waits/stays.  Tidey got a little bit clever and would switch before I moved so then I had to proof against that but we got there and I think it was invaluable.

I am completely undecided about what I will do with Tidey's contacts or how I will start to train her weaves.  I am starting to think seriously about both of these things as she approaches her first birthday the week after next.   I am tempted to look at 2x2 weaves as I've never trained this method so am going to watch the dvd over the next few weeks to see if I fancy trying it.   I like to try different things although I often end up going back to previous methods if I find I prefer them.

I am lucky to have a lovely group of friends to train with and we have loads of fun together with all our lovely doglets.

Here we are enjoying yesterday's sunshine.  I already posted one of the pictures on Facebook but here it is again as it makes me laugh.   We decided to try to get a photograph of Tidey being a good girl in her unzipped crate.  Make up your own mind whether I was releasing her or if it was a case of "Tide is Out".   It certainly wasn't a case of "Tide is In".   In fact yesterday I would say it was really a case of "High Tide".  Never was a name more appropriate.  I love her to bits, she is such a character and so much fun :o)

I made this cake for training and was a good girl and didn't eat any.  I am still trying hard to get fit for the WAO's in May!

We are lucky to be able to train at Pete and Val's lovely venue.  I say train, we seem to spend rather a lot of time sitting in our deck chairs drinking coffee and just enjoying being with our doglets in the sunshine.

Jan & Capp with Lisa & Dec 

 Tide's out (above) Tide's in (below)  

Personally I think it's quite clear I am saying"OK" and releasing Tidey ;o)

Pete, Sue, Lisa, Jan and Caroline

Bring on our next training session.  We love them, we have fun and so do our dogs!

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