Wednesday, March 30, 2011

k9 nosework

There are so many great things about this sport that I decided to of them is the lack of equipment. All we use is a variety of household items and lots of cardboard boxes. I have been wanting to try this for awhile and when I finally found a class to take, I had trouble deciding if I should sign up Pax or Indigo. Pax would be more a of challenge, but Indigo already does a lot of other activities (she is the only one that does agility). Epic was out of the question for this sport.

I decided to take the easy route and bring Indigo, although I have been training Pax at home. I did try Epic and immediately was reminding of why this was not the sport for him. He will stick with herding and flyball thank you very much.

Indigo is doing awesome in our class. It is so much fun to watch her progress each week. She is now at the point that she knows that she is hunting for treats and gets very excited for her turn. I have not been doing a great job with my homework, which is to set her up for some searches in several different locations other than home. I need to try at least two before her class this week!

I love this sport for cross training with agility and flyball and also for dogs that are retired from sports, physically unable to be really active, or dogs that are limited in activity choices because they are aggressive with dogs or people. This is something that can easily be done at home and really improves the relationship between dog and handler as well as increasing the mental stamina of the dog.

I would like to see if dogs with focus issues and limited attention spans during sports like agility and flyball would benefit from regular nosework practice.

I'll post updates on this as we get more advanced. Who knows...maybe we will enter a trial some day!

First Flyball Tournament of 2011

We went to our first tournament of the year this past weekend. We could only go on Sunday because of my work schedule, but our teammates were nice enough to bring Indigo and Epic to race on Saturday also. They both did great.

Indigo ran is completely back to her old self again and is running lots of 3.8's and 3.9s in 2nd position. I didn't start her, so I'm not sure what her real times are. I think my passes were pretty class, so that is probably accurate.

Epic is a little bit overweight at the moment and his box turn needs some work. He ran lots of 3.9s in start, but didn't seem quite as fast as usual.

We stayed in a hotel because it didn't seem worth the effort to set up the trailer for one night. Pax was perfect in the hotel. He slept in the bed, right up against me all night and didn't move. He practiced on Saturday night after racing and did well. I think we got a little bit ahead of ourselves and sent him on a few full runs, which messed up his turn. This reinforced that we need to keep it slow with him and stay close to the box until his turn is really good. I can't wait for his debut! His recall to the tug is super fast!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

recall update

Recalls: Considering my promise to my dogs at the beginning of the year and Susan Garrett's recent focus on reliable recalls, I have decided to step it up...especially for Epic.

I have been working on increasing the rate of reinforcement (giving my dogs treats every time they come to me) and trying to never call them if I think they will ignore me. I also realized that they do a drive by recall (they come for a treat and then zoom off again). We are working on an implied stay after a recall to solve this problem .

I am going to take Susan Garrett's recommendation and work through some distractions....starting with Epic & Pax. Of Susan's ideas these are the ones that I will work on: birds, sheep, door bell ringing, balls being thrown, smells, dog on leash, dogs running off leash, another family pet playing, another pet being fed, opening the front door, dogs doing agility/flyball nearby, toys on the floor, another dog tugging, squirrels, a toy thrown, a cat running, a swimming opportunity, leaving food. And for Epic I would like to add "someone holding a chuckit or tennis ball".

We will start with the easiest ones: dog on a leash, door bell, toys on the floor, smells, swimming opportunity (Pax not Epic), me standing still. I'll use a long line in these environments at first.

I am not going to be able to avoid the more difficult temptations, but I can commit to not setting up a situation in which I need to call them in a really distracting environment. Also, I probably can't do 3 five minute sessions a day, but I can definitely do one per day for five minutes.

I'll shoot for 20 recalls each session and use a variety of motivating toys and treats...and I'll start using a clicker.

For the next few weeks, I'll do the sessions at home with very little or no distractions and try out different rewards to see what is most motivating. I'll post an update when I have one.

And a brief overall update: Indigo is doing well in agility, but her handler needs to work with her at home to teach her weaves and some jumping drills before they can trial. She is also taking a nosework class and doing awesome with it. It is very fun and addictive!

We are going to our first tournament this weekend since December! Pax is doing really well with box work and we are taking it slow with full runs to build the basics first and get him really solid before we debut him. I'm pretty sure it will be this summer sometime, as he will be 1 in a few weeks. Epic needs wall work to fix his box turn and again, his handler needs to get working on that! We went to a Touch N Go seminar in February and got some great ideas and have been implementing a lot of changes in our training and how we run flyball practice.

For example...we use gutters to improve striding

Squishy tennis ball

I am volunteering at dog training classes to get more experience training and get some ideas for working with my own dogs and the flyball team.

We haven't been to another race practice with Pax, but there are several upcoming scheduled practices that we are planning on attending. Hopefully Pax can improve his recall before this.