My dog is a sensitive soul, stressed easily, and can be a bundle of nerves. She has come SO DARN FAR, and I'm incredibly proud of her, but it's still hard not to get frustrated when I can't seem to illicit a response I need.
Our private last week was a mixed bag. We've had a hoop out for her to run through, it's a little small, but that's the point. She looked up to see the toy and hit it with her head, I think, last week and then viewed that as a correction. Her next response included a slow two on/two off performance. Eugh. We took the hoop off the end of the contact and just put it on the ground.
I can get a LOT of silly, offered behaviors at home, in the obedience ring, and around equipment that isn't contacts. She has a long standing stress-relationship with them due to so many factors it makes my head spin.
Regardless, she was beautiful today. We played first, then we ran on the board a couple times at 4" and then moved it up until we were at 24" of elevation at one end. She was even running up the wrong way and leaping off. She can be silly and funny and brave, in a place she's comfortable in. I've worked incredibly hard with her to be less reactive, more in tune, and we've gone a lot of public places to work. I know, patience is key, but my struggling point is reinforcers.
I've been throwing a toy at our lesson, but she doesn't want to play with it. Last week she was chasing it, and I was rewarding for the chase. Ken Ramirez says secondary reinforcers (toys for Bailey) need to be followed by a primary reinforcer (food) for the behavior to stay strong. I don't always do that correctly, but I try to. At home I can use a toy exclusively, and we play with toys a lot. When we're in the obedience studio, I can use a toy as a reinforcer, but it is definitely secondary and I still reinforce the playing with food. It doesn't make her lose supposed "drive" for the toy, rather increases it. I don't care if she ever actually tugs at a trial, but I want her to be comfortable in a training setting. "Patience" and progress will come.
Sometimes she throws me a ball in left field though and I can't fathom the correct way to respond, so then I spend days trying to figure it out. My goal for this week is to get a full length board (or two, or three) and start piecing it together at home, like I did with her weaves. She's a beautiful, confident weaver now, regardless of location... because I did major proofing last summer. I had friends walking close to the weaves, throwing things, singing, being stupidly silly, and she learned to ignore them and just WEAVE. Whereas weaves used to be a huge struggling point, they're definitely something I look forward to on a course now.
Contacts will come, but first I need to get these behaviors at home. And work on playing in scary new situations.