Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Teach the dog to do it right, then teach it until it can't go wrong

Well as you can see Scandal is nearly as tall as Tia at 8.5 months. Everyone says she is built like a whippet which I guess is better than being built like a tank! A lot of people who saw her at 4/5 months old remarked "oh she's going to be small isnt she" but I think a lot of people assume unless a dog grows like a sunflower, it is going to make medium! She must be around 19" now, as Tia is 19.5.

Back to the title of this post, this is what my obedience trainer said to me today. We spent so long on Tia that we didn't have time for Scandal, although we talked through a few things on tackling some of her brattish behaviour when we're at shows.

So, Tia and sendaways. Well I have never understand how a dog could be quite so dim, as Tia just didnt 'get it'. What I want from a sendaway is the dog to run through the front markers to a back marker (even if there are 4/6/8 front markers) and then drop WHEN I say drop.

Tia's version is to run out and drop where she feels appropriate, and, try as I might, I really couldn't convince her (despite endless training rounds in the ring) that I wanted her at the back marker and she didn't have to drop herself.

Well thanks to Susanne I think I now understand why Tia has such weak sendaways, I have always limited what I train with her (I vary the markers etc but I always want the same behaviour) and I need to vary it, so that when I get in the ring, a plain sendaway is easier. The more she talked about it the more I could see that Tia wasn't quite so dim (still dim, just not quite so much). So we played some sendaway games and Tia thought this was just fabtastic. It is also good for me to build on the failure part, which of course Tia finds hard. The second we started talking Tia took herself off into a corner and went to sleep ("I cant/shant/wont try") and when I called her back came about as lifelessly as possible. However once we worked over this Tia forgot that she had a problem with it and did some good work.

For some reason, I see agility and obedience very differently. When I'm training weaves and contacts for example, I 'proof' them as much as possible, distracting with toys/treats, my body movement etc. Yet when I train obedience (eg DC/sendaway/retrieve) I am very limiting in what I do, I don't challenge the dog, so we don't strengthen up in a particular exercise. I think Tia's contacts and weaves are pretty strong, but I have spent ages working her through distractions, making it as hard as I can for her, rewarding when she gets it right, and working her through the ones she finds hard. Yet somehow I have convinced myself not to do this in obedience, in case it confuses her. Well, not anymore, I am now going to try and make her as strong in obedience as she is in agility. Hmmmmmmmm how successful we will be I don't know. I will probably by next month have completely lost my DC and my sendaways will be even worse than they are now!

Thursday, 20 August 2009


Seems like it has been mad busy this week, I took some classes for Ant at Bincknoll, which went well, and then yesterday evening I took Scandal in their indoor centre place, and just sat with her, behind the wall where the dogs were working, getting her to do lefts, rights, sit and waits. She was extremely alert and dying to get into the arena, however she was marginally calmer than she usually is, ie she wasn't screaming ALL the time. I was literally stuffing treats into her mouth all the time to start with (and she was doing an impression of a dam pirahna snapping for the treats) but then after a while she did settle a little bit. She could hear the dog and owner working round a course, but the only time she felt the need to bark was when she could hear the dog going over the dogwalk or seesaw. I was leaving her in sit waits to see if she would be better behaved when I wasn't holding the lead, I am not sure if this was the case, however she did for the most part remain in a sit, and just barked in her highest pitch (which I am sure majorly irritated all the people there!). We did about 15 minutes of this and then I took her out.

Hopefully if I can find situations like this to work her around, where she isn't actually doing anything, and is not as close to the action as she would be at a 12-ring agility show, we might eventually get there. I have enjoyed reading Nancy's posts about what she's done with Zeki for a dog with a high chase drive - Scandal is so obsessed with movement, in both agility and obedience - any dog moving, no matter how fast or slow, is a big draw to her. Yet take her out on a walk and she's not particularly fussed about any dogs that charge past her. When I was at an obedience show last week I couldn't even get her to give me a hand touch of more than 1 sec, yet at the park, she is happy working through any distraction. It feels like I have got a lot of work to do with her this winter!

The only thing I am slightly relieved about (hope she is not lulling me into a false sense of security!) is that the bits of training we have done, she loves, and is now really into her toy, so I hope that will be more exciting than leaving the ring to chase another dog!

After having been away for so much of July and August, I was expecting her running contacts to go slightly pear shaped, however they didnt, they were HORRENDOUS! I did some when I got back from Europe, and before I'd left they were about 70% good, well they were about 10% when I got back, I think (for this one occasion!) Laura was right, as she said Scandal would grow and it would screw it up, and I think she had, as we just couldn't get it right at all!

I was doing them 2-3 times a week but since I have been back on Sunday, I've done them 4 times, and I am pleased that yesterday her success rate was 80% and today it was 100%. Between coming back from Europe and leaving for Exmouth I don't think her success rate was any higher than about 40%. I did lower the plank, but eventually it was on the floor and she was still jumping, so I just put it back on to the height we have been working at, only rewarded the good ones (that is why I like having a dog who doesn't die at the thought of not being rewarded!) and finally they are starting to come good again... hope it lasts!

I've done very little training with Tia since July, I wanted to give her a bit of time off again. When we were in Exmouth we went to the beach a lot, and one time we had just got off the beach and were in the park, when we were joined by a scaredy cat Rhodesian Ridgeback. Scandal, who just wants to play ALL the time, managed to get it playing, and they were chasing each other round, and then this absolute moron of a dog (RR, not Scandal!) just completely smashes through Tia, who was minding her own business in the middle of the field... quite why this dog had to choose the particular spot Tia was at, I don't know, but of course I was mad at myself for letting Scandal play with the dog, for not getting Tia out the way etc etc. The dog really hit her side hard, and I think it winded her as although she didn't yelp, there was a bit noise. She wasn't lame after that, and although I watched her like a hawk for a few days, I'd put it to the back of my mind by the time we saw the specialist on Tuesday. Tia's neck is sore... back is really sore... grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!! We have got to do a stretch on the exercise ball twice a day to stretch the muscles in her back, as when I do it at the moment, the muscles go into spasm, it really isn't nice to see her so uncomfortable! She was her usual crazy self when I was at the field today, and we did a sequence (4 jumps and a tunnel) on small height and she was lovely, but I have left it at that until she is mended. Slap for Char for not thinking a bit quicker that RR was too big a dog to play with!!

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Scandal and Tia

Pics taken in fading light yesterday!

I've got loads of pics and I'll upload more when I get back. Here are some of my faves.

Taken by Steve Townsend, www.htimages.co.uk

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Sunny holiday

I'm house sitting for Chel in Exmouth this week, we have been down since last Wednesday and are here until Sunday. It's been really great for Scandal to learn to live with a pack of 7 other dogs, I think she was rather mortified at the prospect last week, where as Tia who's been here several times before just settled in straight away. I think Scandal is quite at home now, and totally adores Chels 15 month old youngster Daizy... all they want to do is play so I split them up when I want some peace! And I don't like Scandal playing too rough (she likes Daizy as she also plays rough) as it scares me that she's going to get hurt, so they are only allowed limited playtime! (Im such a meanie!)

We have been to the beach 3 times, the weather yesterday was amazing, the dogs swam in the sea for ages, I am pleased that Scandal has turned out to be a total water baby, she swam for ages, she is very determined and already is very fast, and will swim faster than Tia in her determination to get the ball. Chel left me her camera to use, so I have got some nice pics of the dogs, just got to find the camera cable so I can get them on the computer! We also went sea fishing yesterday, and I took Scandal with me! How's that for socialisation! She was great, and of course was not content with lying on the floor, she had to be on the seat, with her paws on the top part, peering over the edge! The only thing she was VERY scared of was the bucket they put the fish in, that took some coaxing to get her near - I don't know if it was the smell, or what (there were no fish in it the first time) but that was a bit strange. Between Monday and today I have had 6 people ask me if she is a fox, or tell me that she looks like a fox. She gets loads of attention when we are out, which I don't think has helped her over-friendliness. Hopefully piccies will come soon!

Monday, 3 August 2009

Chippenham show

I had entered Hatchford Brook ch ob yesterday but decided not to go as Tia has done no obedience in a month and I didn't fancy the 2 hour journey to train in the rain!

So I took all 3 dogs to Chippenham Starter and YKC show in Dorset. Lovely venue, the only thing I did not like was the rings were so quiet, literally not one dog was barking, the only noise was from people talking. So when I arrived with Scandal, I now understand what zoo animals feel like with everyone staring at them, as everyone was looking at me and this screaming banshee dog that was bouncing around at the end of the lead, thrilled that she was finally back to an agility show after a 5 week break. I guess you could say things have slightly improved as I dropped the lead and Scandal charged into the ring but when I yelled at her she did come back, and only went a couple of metres into the ring, and didn't disturb the dog that was at the other end of the ring (phewf). We managed to practise some sit waits around the ring and this time she did listen. So I think that is some sort of progress.

But on to the better part of the show, Jess and her 23 month old springer spaniel Copper picked up a 2nd in grade 1 agility, and 4th in grade 1 jumping - well done Jess and Cop! In the last 2 months Copper seems to have acknowledged the word consistent and they have come home with lots of top 10 placings including a 2nd in beginners jumping at the UKA Nationals week. Knocking on the door for grade 2 now!

And even more well dones are in order as Imogen Clark and her working cocker Honey qualified for Crufts by getting 2nd in YKC ADOTY small 6-11 year olds - woohoo!!! Imogen is only 10, and has been training since end December 08 - about 7 months, so the progress they have made is amazing. I am very proud :)