Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Training Tuesday: More Heeling

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!


andrea said...

super cool

and great to have concrete goals to keep your work focused ...stays will come :)

I actually quite like proofing stays - how crazy can I be and have the dogs stay? I am however not good at working on static things of any sort :)

Crystal Thompson said...

Yes, a huge part of trialing is because it gives me very concrete goals. I don't do well without that.

Ninso said...

Wow! Great job!!

You need a second dog to work stays! Much more fun as a group exercise! Incidentally, I used to find stays incredibly boring, but then I decided it would be very useful to have dogs that had stays in real life. :) So I just started working them into the day. Down-stay while I prepare your breakfast. Down-stay while I get changed after work. Sit-stay before being allowed up on the bed, etc. We haz stays now!!

Joanna said...

Looking good! Very exciting about trialing again. I also need concrete goals to work toward, otherwise I'm lazy and unfocused about training. :P

I mostly train Dragon's stays for taking pictures out on the road, which means that we're frequently working with distractions. Increasing the duration of the stay, though... Man, that IS boring.

Tegan said...

Glad to think that my suggestions may have helped! You can use reward placement to help forging too - throw ball behind instead of in front. :)

Crystal Thompson said...

Tegan, we've (finally) started tossing behind. I was surprised how hard that was (was tended to shoot forward and then come around, which sort of defeated the purpose), but a friend guided me through it and Maisy and I have both mastered that skill now. That, too, is making a big difference.

Laura, Lance, and Vito said...

I think you forgot the word AWESOME before friend... Just an oversight I hope.

Crystal Thompson said...

Darn blogger, censoring my comments. I KNOW I used the word awesome in there... ;)