Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Laev Does Great!! and then, Laev Is A Brat.

I somehow injured my neck and back last week, and I woke up on Saturday feeling fairly lousy. So I skipped early morning club tracking and instead let Laev out into the yard to air. A moment later we heard the frantic screaming that meant she's treed a critter, and indeed she was climbing a fence and shrieking at a tree. My husband confirmed that she had indeed treed a cat, possibly a holdout from the feral colony which used to thrive nearby.

Granted, I took a while to get prepared. I had to put on shoes, go and find some cream cheese (I wanted a worthwhile reinforcer), and then I had to go out and find a replacement whistle since my own was missing. All this took a while. Still, I have seen Laev run a fence opposite a still cat for HOURS, so it wasn't like she was going anywhere soon.

I walked out to the area where Laev was still running and blew my whistle (uber-recall cue) at a distance of about 40'. And Laev immediately spun and ran directly to me, no hesitation.

Now, for a lot of dogs, this would be a good thing. For Laev, this is roughly the equivalent of an ant holding back a collapsing reservoir dam, of the earth rotating backwards, of me passing up dark chocolate. This is amazing. Of course she got a good dose of cream cheese!

After that, it was easy. I sent her back to bark at the cat and then called her again and again. We also did some heeling past the cat, and even a moving down with recall. To top it off, while Laev held her down, the Rottweiler barreled past her, close enough to brush her, toward me and the cream cheese -- but Laev knew her job. I was proud of her. I came in and told my husband, "That's bloggable!"

Then I loaded up and went to protection session, so she could get some work and so I could toss money I owed into the club pot. Because of my injured neck and back, I knew I couldn't hold Laev myself -- I think that's how I completed the initial injury, working Laev when I was already hurting -- so I had someone else hold her on a long line as we walked together onto the field, and then whenever she needed held back during work.

This wasn't as simple as it sounds. My long line helper and I weren't used to the elegant dance required to keep all three of us untangled at all times, and gauging distance was occasionally a challenge. The helper did a sneak attack on us as I set Laev up for a blind search, running up behind me, but because the long line holder was also behind us, Laev had plenty of room to turn and reach him, getting a bite right off the bat. No one's fault, and not a big problem, Laev is very clean and even though he hadn't expected her to reach him, she just took the sleeve. But her calls out of the blind were far from prompt and even non-existent -- bad Laev! I am reasonably certain that it started with confustion and frustration over the long line and fumbling, but it got worse as we went on, so no more of that! We won't do any more calls out of the blind 'til the handler is back to full functionality and can insist on clean behavior.

Laev did cheat twice as I was heeling her down the field to send for the courage test. The first time, she got impatient and bolted from heel position toward the helper, only to be blocked by the long line. Naughty! That kind of thing hasn't happened in a long, long, time, so we'll be revisiting that. The other time was kind of my fault; she was heeling nicely, and I did an about turn -- which I have always done as a send to the helper. (Normally I do a U-turn to the left if we're going to sit.) We caught her on the long line, and I heeled back and this time cued "sit" as we turned, so she sat at heel. Then I sent her. :)

So, we'll definitely need to revisit control work when I'm back to normal; there was just too much she could experiment with while I wasn't holding her and with someone else on the line. It takes too much time to explain, "she bumped the helper in the blind, pull her out!" -- which she did tonight, for the first time in nearly a year. Naughty Doberman! Yes, she was high on adrenaline, which is a good thing, but no, that doesn't mean she can revert. I'll be curious to see if the behavior cleans up on its own when we get back to just the two of us on the field.

Laev just started running her blind search wide, too, in typical Doberman fashion. This disappoints me, as I'd always liked her tight circles. The blind search isn't timed, but style counts! We'll have to see if I can tweak those back into full-point territory.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

No, Laev, No!

So it's finally nice spring weather, and I was celebrating by leaving the front door open so the dogs could wander in and out and so I could have some nice spring air. This open door is normally a good thing, a treat we get only briefly in spring and fall.

'Til Laev came trotting inside with a dead chipmunk.

"No, Laev, dead chipmunks are outdoor toys."

Hurt look.

I directed Laev back outside and she proceeded to sulk. I told her to "out" and she spat the chipmunk promptly, and then I gave her permission to enter the house. She picked up the chipmunk. Block entrance, repeat.

Finally I tossed the chipmunk away from the door (too lazy to dispose of it properly yet) and Laev hesitated, torn between wanting to keep her prize and wanting to come inside with me. Finally she split the difference and lay down in the doorway, where she could keep an eye on us both.

Last night we were able to get back on the field for some outdoor Schutzhund again. The dogs love working outdoors; so much room to really run and get crazy! I'm still working on Laev's sit at heel during bitework, but she's doing better at revving herself (and I'm doing better at handling for it). We'll get there.... Lots of work in the obedience phase, still, though.

Monday, March 02, 2009

It figures.

Saturday I took the Dobes to a CDSP obedience day -- two trials. A handful of clients came to see the first trial, as I'd suggested some of them might want to consider CDSP obedience, and stayed to watch our Open runs.

My dogs embarrassed me. Ugly heelwork, unfocused dogs.

At least it was a chance to practice good sportsmanship, right? And to demonstrate that our dogs aren't automatons?

I thought about that trial after everyone left, and I realized I was probably not handling the way I train. I was not thinking wholly about the dog, I was thinking about the judge, the stewards, the spectators.... This is a team event. If I need my dog's whole attention, my dog needs mine. Also, I think I'd succombed to boring ring heeling instead of brisk Schutzhund heeling.

So for the second trial, I concentrated on my dogs. Heelwork was still not what it can be, but it was good enough. And we took first and second place in our class. Hours after my clients went home. /laugh/ Figures.

So Laev has finished her Open title -- again -- for real this time (under the proper number of judges!) and will be going back to Utility work. Shakespeare still hasn't finished Open, as I didn't enter him at the last CDSP trial as he was running multiple classes in the neighboring ring. I'm trying to take it easy on the old guy, but sometimes I wonder if he'd rather exhaust himself working...?