The dogs and I went to training class today. I made a promise to my fellow training buddies that I would actually train my dogs today... not talk and distract! I stuck to that promise!
I even took both of them! It took some strategic planning, but we made it work. Poor Buzz didn't have much space to lay down on the way to training because I had to put Bailey in the (large) blue crate (couldn't harness her due to where her sutures are), but he had more space on the way home because we picked the midget crate up from Robin!
I got there in enough time to walk each dog separately for about five minutes. Buzz went first then I traded for Bailey and Buzz relaxed in the crate in the car. Days like today are the only days I wish my car could hold two crates. The weather was beautiful so I left the car door open for a while and dogs got to enjoy the weather too!
I had goals for today and I worked on the majority of them! It worked wonderfully to bring both dogs today because I'd work one for 5-10 minutes, take a water and walk break and bring the other out. Dogs got sufficient work and rest to work wonderfully for me!
When we started rehab, Bailey's sits were atrocious. All over the place with legs and body and just silliness! So we practiced sits on a hat box and they got a lot, lot, lot, better. The problem was that she couldn't bring her rear up to meet front legs and do a tuck sit. She would do a 2on/2off position and bring her front feet up. While maintaining the same position worked those muscles, it did nothing for muscle memory of getting into the position. A couple weeks ago I had my brother cut me a long and narrow piece of plywood. Today at training class we used the same thing and practiced stepping onto it then doing a tuck sit. I made some mistakes (reinforcing curling around by reinforcing with the wrong hand and a few others that don't need to be mentioned), but I got some beautifully tight tuck sits from her on my left and right side.
I have this lofty goal of doing the Dog Days 5k with her. I haven't lost all my marbles, I promise. Today our good friends Elizabeth and Beckett did parallel walking in the training building with us. We chose to use a dog she knows and gets along with for the first time. Beckett could care less about a dog ignoring him so it gave me the time to figure out this whole parallel walking thing people talk about! I had to stop and think or ask questions a lot, but I think we have a workable plan now... provided my dog is able to participate.
Our sticky-target behavior is really coming along nicely. I'm really impressed by my desire to make this a solid behavior and thus, dedication to actually working on the behavior. At home we've been making it increasingly more difficult by adding in some challenging elements. I've been asking for each foot individually while maintaining the nose target and I've been working on examining her ears. Today Robin and I worked on some different aspects of this behavior. We started with gentle touch by a person in her line of sight. The touch was on her hips and I clicked when Robin made contact. That went quite smoothly so we moved to a different body part, the ears. At first I was clicking when Robin touched her ear, but then Bailey's ear flicking became quite noticeable, so I started clicking before the touch (on Robin's advice!). Robin was then able to touch her ear with no/minimal flicking. We ended the session by clicking just after contact happened and feeding throughout contact. Our session was ended by Bailey. She did a full body shake to indicate she'd had enough contact for a while.
--Interesting notes from this session--
*The more we worked, the harder she pushed her chin/nose into my palm. Very desirable!
*She was alternating chin and nose. I'm not sure that I really care which it is, but I'm thinking back to Ken Ramirez talking about non-specific criteria possibly being easier for us, but requiring more work for the animal. The less clear I am with my criteria, the more I'm asking her for. I need to decide and reinforce appropriately.
*Building duration for exam behaviors. She can hold the sticky target for quite a while at this point. Definitely long enough for the doctor to put hands all over her body, without actually thoroughly examining the body parts. She still isn't keen on actually being examined. Light touching all over her body doesn't bother her. Me asking for her feet doesn't bother her. An ear exam with the otoscope will bother her at this point. How do I prepare her for this?
Her final training session today involved directional cues. She was a really, really fun dog to run in agility. Very in tune with my body cues, very fun to run silently. At one point in time, I taught her directional cues and realized those are things we can still practice and work on, without actually doing agility. I experimented (aka, tested) the cues I have for directions today. I really wish I'd had this on video because it was both exciting and kinda frustrating to see her responses. We used a pole as our "go out around" obstacle and worked "spin-go out" first which means I want her to turn away from me to her right and go out around the obstacle. I was not a good trainer, and I didn't take actual numbers but if I had to guess, I'd say she's about 97% accurate with that directional. "Twist-go out" indicates turn left and go out around the obstacle, and that had a much lower success rate. All of these were done with verbal and visual cues. Robin challenged me to use verbal only... that went very poorly. 100% fail rate! In my defense, we've never relied on verbal only cues in agility, and I likely never will. It is a training skill we can work on though, just for fun I suppose!
Oh Buzz! Buzz worked on Beckett's obstacle course designed to teach dogs to pick up feet appropriately. He thought that was great fun and did a nice job, I think. We'll have to ask Elizabeth how "good job" is determined. I kept his sessions very, very short. We always ended before he got tired and took rest/treat breaks in between.
We also worked some 4 jump cavalettis. I set the jumps at 8" and about 24" apart. They needed some tweaking but he did 6 reps total and only knocked 1 or 2 bars. His last one was beautiful--he bounced them with a grin on his face and raced me to the end! It made me decide to enter him in the upcoming NADAC trial. We'll design our own (short) course in Jumpers and Tunnelers. I think the silly boy will have a great time.
As is part of Training Group tradition, Buzz and I took a nice walk around the inside and outside of the building just exploring and eating treats. If I had to guess, I really think this activity would be his favorite part. It's so simple and easy for me to do and he enjoys the exploring so much. After one of his work sessions we took a walk down to the impound lot with Elizabeth and Beckett. I certainly didn't let him sniff everything, but he got to check the pee mail quite thoroughly.
If training group wasn't wonderful enough, five of the humans and five of the dogs went for a walk at a nearby park. Everyone, and I mean, everyone, did a great job. We encountered some bicyclists, other dogs, walkers, runners, cars, ducks, etc and it was just a great way to spend the day! Someone (ahem, Ryan...) took pictures!