We went out Noble Woods park today. It's a largish park that has plenty of trails, woodsy areas, and creeks to play in. There's also a nice bustling picnic area that they rent out that usually has a variety of people and dogs hanging out around. I started off with Heffner and we took a nice relaxed and meandering walk around the park for a bit. Then we headed up to the picnic area to work on some obedience. In a nut shell, we REALLY need to do a lot of work outside! I have found with both dogs that it's easier to warm them up around a lot of distractions by doing some heeling patterns on nice flat cement. They both seemed to focus better when I warmed them up there and then moved onto the grass to work on various exercises. I did get some pretty good heeling out of Heffner. He definitely perks up, pays better attention, and has nice movement when I praise him. He actually transitioned onto the grass really well and I got some nice work done with him. Throughout our time at the park we worked on focus whenever other dogs came into sight. He's more aloof than Bess and isn't as distracted by people. He did REALLY well at focusing on me when other dogs were passing us by. I want to work him up to a point where a dog can come into the picture and while he notices them, he doesn't stiffen his posture. We've gotten to the point where he doesn't vocalize, now I just want for him to notice, but not take on a "ready to rumble" pose. From what I saw today, as long as I give him enough distance from the other dog, this is definitely possible. We'll slowly work up to a point where he can be closer and more relaxed. Thankfully this is something that we don't struggle with at trials. It's just when we're out and about.
Next up was Bess. She had a much harder time of gaining the type of focus that I'm used to getting from her. She was REALLY easily distracted. I assume that this has a lot to do with the reduced activity that she's had more recently and her not getting out and doing the variety of things that she's used to. She most definitely benefited from the warm up heeling patterns on the paved paths. Once we moved onto the grass, everything was so different. She was so much slower than she was on the paved path. Her automatic sits were also a lot slower in coming. It was like we had stepped off the paved path onto molasses. We most definitely do a lot of outdoor work on grass!
I also realized some of my training holes that I have with Bess. Because she is such an even tempered and friendly dog, I haven't done the same kind of work with her that I've had to do with Heffner. We haven't done nearly as many focus games. She's also a lot less aloof around people than Heffner is and wants to go up to everyone and say hi. I realized this when I tried doing some focus work with her when dogs were passing by. She had the hardest time just sitting and focusing on me. After that realization, I had her hold a sit stay and focus on my face whenever there were people approaching in the opposite direction. It's crazy to think about, but I do have to admit that Bess is a little on the rude side on leash when we're just out doing casual walks. I really would prefer a more behaved dog, but I've let her get away with it until now because it was always Heffner that I was on the alert for. The park wasn't terribly busy either, so it wasn't like we would only be able to walk a few feet at a time before we did a sit stay. It's definitely something that will be handy to work on.
The two sessions were quite productive and now I have a much better idea of what we need to work on. While getting out once a week to a new outdoor place to train is a good start, I can already tell that we're going to need to do some training on grass in some of around the house training locations to really have an impact. At least I've got a better idea so that I can tailor our training sessions more appropriately!
I hope that everyone is having a nice, relaxing weekend!