Friday, May 9, 2008

blowing you off...

as posted to the dobe obedience list :)

I think I get to write the book on this, since Rah did it to me not once, not twice, but I believe three times to me... at NATIONALS!!!

Everyone was so supportive with lovely things to say (including the judges), and we've come a long way. THere are a few things that I learned, that I kept in mind, and that I had to remind myself...

1) Rah was and still is, a young dog. At most, he is not even 3 years old. Most likely, he is only nearing 2.5 now , and while he is leaps and bounds more mature than he was in the past, his maturity level is still about half that of my 7 month old bitch puppy most of the time :)

2) My dog ran around the ring loose most of the time because I was not focused on him and did not have his attention on me. In rally, he gave me clear signs he was going to run, and I should have never attempted that fast towards the ring gate (it LOOKED like a jump, of course he was going to take it as a jump). I need to stay connected and not wander from one area to another and hope my dog follows me - that may work for some people, but with Rah at least, that's asking for danger - left to his own devices, he will do Very Bad Things. I have to stay connected and let him know we are still working at all times.

3) You need to know your dog. The one trial, I lost him when I let him jump up in between the heel free and the recall, he got too "up", and he was so into jumping on me, biting me, and his release that I had no real hope of reigning him back in and getting him to set up for that recall. He does much better if I just heel him in between all exercises, with me verbally praising him, I can calmly pet him DOWN his neck and face, but I cannot stimulate him any further. Rah exists on the border of frantic ping-pong like kinetic energy and all it takes is a slight push from me and he's over - while we can do these releases in training, in the ring my stress level and his make for a combo that means he has to be under tight control at all times, and I have to be connected to him all the time keeping a lid on the two of us :)

4) Most of the problems in the ring, as always, are mine not his. He reacts to me - be it a lean on a halt, tension down the leash, me forgetting to signal a turn, or do you chatter when you train but now you can't in the ring. If we screw up, most of the time it's my fault, not his. I am a strange, strange person in the ring - I walk funny, talk funny, breath funny... I'm amazed sometimes they come near us at all. Or maybe you all get less nervous than me, but as a Novice A person sometimes it is all I can do to get myself in the ring.

5) Delayed reinforcement. say it again - delayed reinforcement. I still reward my dogs heavily for every single thing they do sometimes - Rah has trouble maneuvering his 32 inch frame into nice tuck sits, and I STILL reward him for nice ones. Rah has trouble staying straight, he has trouble with many things. I reward anything I like, and I will continue to do so - but I reward intermittently and my dogs never know when or where the food comes from. They see me walk over to the training bag to get food, sometimes it is hidden on me, sometimes it is in my mouth, sometimes the toy is on my body, sometimes we run and get it, sometimes it is on the floor and I release you to go find your toy and get it. Sometimes you get rapid fire treats, sometimes you have to work for 5 whole minutes without anything and THEN you get something. Sometimes we set up and just release - my dogs never learn to anticipate anything and never know when or where the reward is coming from.

6) Did I train for this level of distraction? It's not fair of me to ask my dog to perform things he is not capable of, or things I have not trained for, expecting him to generalize. Some dogs are amazing and wonderful and come preprogrammed with an OTCH button, but for the rest of us poor folk with regular old dogs, we need to do it the hard way :) You can't take a dog that has only worked at one or two locations to a gigantic busy venue and expect that they will work anywhere near the same level they do at home or at your training facility. You can't take a dog that trains indoors and expect them to be able to necessarily work outdoors without noticing the butterflies (RAH) or the bees (RAH!) or the birds flying over the ring (RAH!!!!!) and get distracted. Yes, you can all know the truth, I never proofed Rah for bees in the ring, and I'm still trying to figure out how to do it safely, but I completely lost his focus outside the ring when he started chasing bees :) Works your bits and pieces in a ton of different locations, and if your dog isn't succeeding more than it is failing, lower your criterion and back up a step and make sure your dog is right.

7) My dog runs around the ring as a release. He gets stressed out, and he needs a physical release so that he can keep going - he is after all, only human :) When he is frustrated, concerned, confused, not sure what is expected of him, I am not clear on what I am asking of him, he's concerned about what is being asked - sometimes, that comes out and he just bolts. He isn't running away from me - he has his eye on me the entire time. He is simply running because it feels good and he DOESN'T WANT TO PLAY MY GAME anymore. Is that acceptable? No - but then I have to ask - why was my game not the most fun game there is? Why wasn't working with me the most rewarding thing out there -- and then *I* need to fix that. Why was running aimlessly around the ring more fun than working with mom? I'm not saying they cannot look elsewhere, etc - but when I want to play or do something, I want my dogs to WANT to work with me, I don't want to drag a dog out there on the end of the leash. I like that my dogs push me to work.

and finally -

This is only obedience. I am doing this for fun. Rah doesn't care of he qualifies or if we get any ribbons. In fact, his antics are so self-rewarding I have to make sure you folks stop laughing at him when he does cute things that are Very Bad in the ring :) We are here only because I want to do this, and if it's not fun, we stop, plain and simple. The world does not end, the sun does not rise and set, because of my heeling. In the end, *I* know I have an awesome dog, and while I would love everyone else to be able to see what an awesome dog he is, he is only held back by somebody's inept handling.

I'm not a perfect handler - and these things don't work for me all the time, or maybe not even most of the time. If Rah and I were perfect we'd have an OTCH by now and he'd be hand fed tater tots by the little imp puppy while he lounges on the couch, retired to a life of luxury with his db. I'm still trying to work out my own ring nerves, and god knows I am trying to work out how to handle a dog like Rah. But we're doing this because we actually LIKE obedience, and love training.

JMHO, as always.

1 comment:

Kais_mom said...

From Jeri and Kai

Oh my goodness, this is so Kai as well, they sound like two peas in a pod!!!

Keep up the good work Kim!!

"Rah exists on the border of frantic ping-pong like kinetic energy and all it takes is a slight push from me and he's over - while we can do these releases in training, in the ring my stress level and his make for a combo that means he has to be under tight control at all times, and I have to be connected to him all the time keeping a lid on the two of us :)"