Maisy and I continue to work diligently on our heeling. When I last posted, Maisy was going rather wide, but was getting more or less in line with my leg for 10 to 20 feet at a time. So, I increased the criteria to include being close.
Being close is hard for a little dog, especially when you have a clumsy handler who is apt to step on you. In other words: I’ve had my work cut out for me. I started by encouraging her to get close with my voice and by patting my leg. The second she got there, I threw her ball. I wasn’t paying much attention to where I was throwing the ball, though, until Tegan pointed out that by throwing the ball to the left, I was encouraging her to go wide. Well, duh. I’ve read about reward placement, and yet I didn’t realize that I was working against myself. *sigh*
Once I started throwing the ball only in front or behind, Maisy immediately came closer, which was awesome. Her closeness is still inconsistent when we’re using the ball, but it’s much improved, and there are definite moments of brilliance:
I’ve started taking our training “on the road,” too. Last week, we went to a local training club, and she did some really nice heeling up and down the hallways. There weren’t classes going on at the time, so there were no distractions, but it was an environment she hasn’t been in for quite awhile. I was very pleased with her attention and focus! Even better, despite the fact that I was using treats and not her ball, she still drove through the about turns with tons of energy and enthusiasm (and she has always lagged on those).
Unfortunately, since you can only work on one criteria at a time, she’s begun forging again. Denise Fenzi suggested using pace changes to help emphasize correct placement. A trainer friend suggested experimenting more with reward placement (throwing behind more often). I’ve been playing with both of these ideas for the last few days. Hopefully in a few weeks, I’ll have more progress to share!
In other training news, I’ve decided to enter an obedience trial at the end of December. My “breed club” is hosting a CDSP trial the day after Christmas. It promises to be a small, quiet trial, and I know the judge well enough that I won’t feel (overly) embarrassed if it all falls apart. I really like that venue because it allows you to talk during exercises and use treats between them, which means that if she’s feeling uncertain, I can make it a good experience for her. I’m sure it’ll be fine, but it makes me feel better knowing I’ve got a back up plan.
Since making this decision, I’ve started working on the other skills Maisy will need for the trial- namely the moving stand for exam and the recall over jump. These are going well. I need to start working on her honoring skills, too, but… well, neither of us are very good at stays. Mostly because I find them boring.
Anyway, that’s were things stand now. I’m quite pleased with Maisy’s progress, and am confident we’ll be ready for that trial!