This morning the dogs and I had our obedience lesson. We're trying some new methods to try and tweak things a bit. Basically trying to figure out what will get the best, most precise, most animated performance out of the dogs. Soooooooooo.....we got rid of the food rewards and were working strictly with toys. It was a little rough, but I think that in the end we'll have a better finished product that will hold up better. The doesn't mean that I'm nixing food rewards all together on everything. I'm going to start small and work my way up with the toy rewards so that obedience is beyond fun for both the dogs!
What we're going to do is take it back to basics. I'm going to start with heeling. We're going to heel a few steps, halt, and then reward with the toy. I KNOW that they're sits, Heffner especially, can be faster when they're motivated. And while food is definitely motivating, Heffner gets a LOT more animated with toys. Gradually I work longer heeling patterns before they get released to play with the toy. And then I'll also be working it into the various other exercises.
And to be perfectly honest, that is what we spent the majority of the hour working on with the dogs. I know that it sounds simple enough, but there were a lot of things that had to be tried out and when I switch dogs, it starts all over again. For Heffner, it was a matter of finding the right toy that was both exciting, but not sooooo exciting that he was absolutely obsessed. Thankfully I had a variety of toys in the truck to try out. The cuz toys are a no go. He gets over the top excited. As in doing vertical leaps over my head excited. Yeah, that just doesn't work for heeling. We settled on a different solid toy and he was quite happy with that, but would also still come to me and drop it. I think that once he figures out that I'm asking him for the same maneuvers, but there's a play session at the end, he's going to be all sorts of prancy pony.:o)
With Bess, I used a soft toy, because she loves them. I have yet to find a toy that she is so over the top for that she won't give it up. Don't get me wrong, she'll get plenty excited, but she always comes back to me and always gives it up. The down side of a soft toy is that she can rip the seams and send fluff every where. Not quite as advantageous.
The other thing that our instructor wants me to figure out and define is what command I'm going to use for getting into a seated heel position, excluding the right finish. Do I want to use the word "swing" like I have been when I'm specifically practicing a left finish from the front position or do I want to use the "get in" command like I have been when we're doing right pivots or I want them to get in closer? I'm going to have to ponder that one. In essence, I'm using two commands for the same positioning. Regardless of where they are, I want them in that left hand seated heel position. The reason for defining this is that we're going to start proofing both dogs understanding of the command. I'm going to start setting them up in a variety of positions. Once we're both situated, I'm going to give the command and I want for them to KNOW where that position is regardless of where they're positioned in reference to me. This is actually something that Jackson's mom has posted a video about before. I believe that it was titled finding heel position. It makes a lot more sense now. And it's a great way to test whether the dogs actually understand the command or whether they're just feeding off of your specific body language. Essentially we're making them think and be actually responsible for the movements.
It's definitely a lot for us to work on. That in addition to reworking how both dogs sit should make things interesting. I've also kind of had to rethink my goals of where I want the dogs to be. I've mentioned previously that with regards to obedience, I want the dogs to be completely ready before we enter the ring. I want to get good scores, not just barely passing scores. I think that it's definitely achievable with both dogs, it's just going to take longer than I had originally thought it would. There's so many things to tweak and play with! And it's REALLY important to get this stuff correct right now because I won't be satisfied with just a CD on either dog (though a CD may be as far as Heffner goes). I want to keep going upwards. And if I'm going to do that, then this foundation work is incredibly important. I have a picture in my mind of the type of performances that I want out of the dogs and I know that it's achievable, it's just going to take time to get there. That, and Bess still needs more time to get those chest muscles in better working order. While on the outside she looks like she's quite healed up, I can tell from her movements and certain times that she takes minor hesitations where she normally wouldn't, that things are still getting readjusted internally and there's still rehabbing work to be done there.
I kind of had to give myself that little reality check on the drive home from the lesson this morning. I had been getting myself pumped up about a trial in August that I was planning on entering Bess in obedience in. I was starting to get myself mentally prepared for where we needed to be at that point to put in the performance that I know she's capable of. As I've started to work myself up to that trial, I can feel myself starting to get nit picky with Bess in a way that isn't productive. I've been bordering on getting frustrated with her in regular training sessions and that's just not productive for her. I've started to build the pressure and raise my expectations for her, when in reality, I need to chill the he** out and let her finish recovering. Once I feel that she's FULLY recovered, then I can start doing the real nit picking, but I need to remind myself to do it in a manner that is productive and won't stress out my dog. There's also the double wammy of the trial being on grass. I could feel a little stress building up over that as well. I so badly want to have a great performance with her, but I really need to hold myself back and actually wait until the time is actually right to enter her. Entering her in a trial in August on grass, is too soon on a substrate that she's already shown a dislike for working obedience exercises on. So I'm waiting. At least we've got rally going for us! It gives me an opportunity to get in the ring and try things out in an actual trial.
So that's where we're at. And this weekend we've got a dog show!! I'm showing miss Mia in conformation and I've got Bess entered in advanced rally. It'll be our first time in the advanced rally ring! I feel pretty good about all the exercises except for the 180 degree left pivot. But I can usually warm her up enough with 90 degree pivots ahead of time that we can kind of stumble through the 180 degree. Wish us luck and I'll be sure to report!