Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Trial/Workshop Report, Day 2 (Saturday)

Saturday was supposed to be the nice weather. It was supposed to get up to fifty degrees. Yeah, right.

Shakespeare tracked better than Friday, but it was still ugly. The judge had recommended that I practice moving up and down the tracking line behind him, but that freaked him out and he got frantic on the track. Ann (another working Dobe person I know from UDC, who had come to train today only) suggested I track him again and gave me some treats which Shakespeare was just crazy for to seed on his track. Shakespeare and I did three more tracks, and while he tracked very enthusiastically for Ann's food, he was so enthusiastic that he ran right over his articles. /sigh/ Oh, well; I'll take eager over accurate for tomorrow's trial.

Laev's was the second track I laid and the fourth I ran, and by the time I started her I'd forgotten my second corner. Consequently when she took it, I tried to block her, and she got frantic ("no! this has to be right! why don't you want me to take the track?") and tracked ugly. I'd also changed the way I had started her, asking for more attention to me instead of the track as we approached, and she was a little more frantic from the beginning. Her track wasn't nearly so pretty as Friday's, she pulled a lot and cast at the sides a little bit, and when I finished the track two people were discussing my equipment. "I hear you won't use a pinch collar," one said, in the tone of voice which might be heard from a gunfighter as he slaps his Colt -- "I hear you won't recognize a brand."

Nice. Yesterday she's great and gets compliments; today she's off and I'm using the wrong equipment and am not a good trainer. From the same people, no less. Sometimes it's better to just do what you do and not care about what others say. The problem is, I have zero confidence in my tracking training skills, so it's harder for me to brush off tracking advice.

For obedience, I planned to just classically condition the field as an awesome spot for Laev for tomorrow's trial. I took a clicker on the field with me (haven't been using a clicker for obedience for months, just reinforcing known behaviors, but I wanted one for practicing reporting in and decided that it couldn't hurt in the least for our routine) and clicked/treated frequently.

Laev held her long down under distraction really well, until I treated. I gave her a large food reward, which took her a little longer than usual to eat, and by the time she finished she'd apparently forgotten what she was doing. I replaced her and she held it again, so well that she didn't want to sit when I returned. Time to go back to the standard chain of down, return, sit, reinforce.... But we'll mess with that after the trial.

Laev worked really well in our moving exercises until we got to the moving down and recall (last exercise). She just couldn't get a moving down. She'd sit, she'd stand, but she didn't down.

Now, Laev has had a moving down since she was six months old. It was the only exercise about which I felt really confident when discussing the BH a few months ago. But I just couldn't get it on the field without a huge hand signal to the ground. Finally I made the conscious decision that Laev has done this correctly hundreds of times and incorrectly a few, and there was nothing to be gained by making a big deal over it the day before the trial, and we just quit. If she stopped in the wrong position during the trial, she'd lose points, but she probably wouldn't fail.

The judge had a lot of comments for other handlers, but none for me. I doubt that was because we were so perfect ;-) but probably because I hadn't taken his advice yesterday. Also, someone probably tipped him off that I wouldn't let him demonstrate on my dog, because he uses methods which I do not and I am fiercely protective of my dogs with other people handling. It would have been pure disaster if he'd tried to demonstrate stomping a leash attached to a prong collar on my dog who has almost never received a true "collar correction." I would not have been rude, but I wouldn't have let him work my dog, so it was probably just as well that he didn't offer. :-)

After 12 hours, we were done with Saturday's training and talking. On the way home, I stopped at a Petsmart for good distractions, and Laev hadn't been in a Petsmart in nearly a year. I bought some of the dog food roll Shakespeare had loved and I worked Laev briefly in obedience. She nailed every down out of motion I asked for. See, I knew she knew it!

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