We had our private obedience lesson today and it went pretty well. Heffner was getting a little pooped towards the end of his half, but that's kind of to be expected. His heeling was quite good, but that was mostly due to the fact that I held a better pace for him. Our instructor has been trying to get me to hold a faster normal pace for him. He looks adorably animated when I can hold a very brisk pace and is just generally more engaged when I'm moving out more and not so slow that he has time to get bored and look around. I think his sits have gone back to being a bit more crooked like they were to begin with. So I need to go back to working on that. He was getting better about before we left, but two weeks off and wanting to focus on my face so much has him popping that rear out more. The shocker for me were his recalls. He's always had pretty great recalls. It's something that I haven't had to really focus on because he happily comes to front when I call him. For whatever reason, today he just stayed sitting every time that I called him to come front. Sometimes even on the second command. This totally blew me away! Guess that's something to work on! Otherwise, I was pleased with where he was at given the two weeks off.
Bess was so freaking cute and attentive that I could have squeezed her to death! I seriously have a hard time sometimes not fawning over her (he he he....no pun intended!) when she's being so good. She gets this excited and super engaged look on her face like she's really looking forward to whatever I'm going to ask her to do next. I really can't adequately describe it, but I LOVE it! Anyhow, she was popping down with those automatic sits like nobodies business. With her I'm more picky about her being in ideal heel position and I will correct her if she's too far out. We're not going for exact position right now, but I do want her getting a better idea of where she needs to be. With Heffner it's a slower process. She was doing great scooting her little bum in! Her heeling was also pretty good. With the break we've had and how engaged and focused on my face she was, she did tend to swing her butt out a bit while heeling and her sits were a bit more crooked than they usually are. I think that's just mostly due to lack of practice over two weeks and with the exercises still being relatively new, there's just not quite the muscle memory like there would be after a few years of this. Otherwise, she did great on everything else that I've asked her to do!
With Bess we have started toying around with some of the upper level exercises. We've just started the very beginning of some directed jumping. We did a little bit with the broad jump today. And we also started working on her dumb bell retrieve. She's not a big retriever, which consequently may actually be in my favor. I won't have to do any retraining with her and getting her to understand that the retrieving doesn't stop when she's done playing. She actually did pretty well and our instructor was quite pleased with how she did with holding the dumb bell for her first time. She gave us a dumb bell to toy around with and see how Bess likes it before we go out and order one of our own.
And like anything else, whenever I come away from a lesson I have a bunch of things swirling around in my head. I've decided to start keeping a personal log after these lessons of what we worked on with each dog, things that need more focus, any additional ideas for training various things that get thrown out there, and future plans. It really helps me to have a game plan written down. I need something that I can go back to at least once a day to make my training sessions more focused and effective. I thought about recording it in the blog, but it's a little more annoying for me to be constantly leafing through various posts to find what I'm specifically looking for while it's buried in whatever else I'm talking about on that day.
I'm slowly starting to formulate obedience related goals for the dogs. The goals for each are very different based on the individual dog's personality and they're mind set. I'll start with Heffner.
When we got Heffner, I didn't originally get him with the intent of purchasing a performance dane puppy. I knew that I wanted to dabble in performance sports, but since I was such a newbie, I wasn't really sure how far I would go or how much I would stick with. I really should have given myself more credit on this front since I had an Arabian horse growing up that I competed in everything from 4-H to open shows to breed shows in a variety of disciplines. I was as obsessed then as I was now. With the exception that now I have my own money and my own time constraints to work with versus needing my parents to drive me around to competitions and to the barn where my horse was boarded to work her. But I digress!! Like I said, Heffner was not purchased with the primary goal of him being a performance prospect. Add into that some temperament issues that can make competition in some areas difficult and I have a dog for whom I need to focus on things for his well being and not just things that I am the one wanting to do. He's got plenty of heart and wants to work with me and go everywhere with me, but he does have limitations. For obedience, I am uncomfortable with the thought of leaving him alone in the ring with a bunch of random strange dogs for the long sits and downs at the open level. While I realize that's still a ways off, it is also only one level above where we're working at. Knowing this, I don't feel a whole lot of "pressure" to get Heffner perfect or to put too much stress on competing with him for obedience. With that said, he will still get trained right along with Bess and I'll take him as far as I can. I still want to train him for the open and utility levels, it just means that I most likely won't be competing with him at that level. So with him, my goals are fairly lax with regards to obedience. I probably won't put him into an actual obedience trial until after Bess has her CD. Which also means that he needs to be more precise because I'll be in the B class with him. I may enter him in a trial earlier, but mostly likely it won't be until the first half of next year that he will make his novice debut.
For Bess, my hopes are high and our instructor fully agrees with me on this. Bess was purchased with the intent that she be a performance dog. She is not only happy to be out there with me, but she genuinely wants to work and is actively trying to figure out what I'm going to ask of her next. I LOVE seeing that look on her face!! It's that expression that makes heeling my favorite thing right now. I get to spend the whole time just walking all over the place while looking into those excited brown eyes! Just generally I can see more potential in her and I'm really excited about it. When we'll step back into the obedience ring after our previous attempt in May, I'm still not entirely sure of. I would like for things to be more polished with her. I don't want just to get a qualifying score with her. I want to get a very NICE qualifying score with her. With Bess, it's not just about getting the title. I don't want her to just look average. I want her performance to be well worth the qualifying score. That is a challenge that I'm definitely looking forward to! I do have a feeling though that we'll make another try at it towards the end of August. Our obedience club is hosting an obedience and rally trial at that time. I've actually donated a prize for the highest scoring great dane. I'm hoping that will be us, but there are no guarantees!
And with that jumble of thoughts, I'm heading off to watch some TV with Adam and the pooches! I hope that everyone had a great Memorial Day!!