Thursday, May 7, 2009

an interesting thing

an interesting thing has happened these past two open classes that have made me simultaneously VERY happy with my trainers, but a little upset with myself as a trainer. i dont want to be too hard on my dogs, and i want to reward a job well done - and i want to NOT make it too hard on my dog.

ive mentioned that fronts are rah's bugaboo. rah has incredible hind end control - i can pivot him around me in heel position, he can do left turns like he belongs in crufts, i can get lateral movement from him - but on front position, we have issues. part of it is likely dominance, and part of it is just his "ish" - it's just him, and me. he doesn't like being in front, and he backs out of it. he doesn't want to be close, he's not comfortable there. and trying to make them straight is just harder.

his fronts without the db are very nice now - after years of work, and its still a WIP. and i think i mentioned last week that he was a teeny bit off and i went to fix it and my trainer corrected ME and told me that if he makes an effort, comes in close and fast - dont nitpick him. dont make it harder for him than it needs to be - don't make it worse, something thats already so hard for him. when hes trying and thinking SO MUCH, reward him for that, instead of just criticizing what was already actually a really good job by saying "but you were just an inch off, why weren't you perfect?"

she's right. its a fine line. its hard to reward something thats wrong, because its drilled into me dont reward wrong - dont reward bad set ups, bad heeling, etc - but here, i know hes trying. hes working, hes doing his best. this is as good as he can give me right now - hes really doing this as best as he can. correcting him isn't going to make it better, and in fact can just make it worse for him. let him know it was a good effort. when he does it PERFECT make it an even better reward, but little steps.

and then last night - we were working over the high jump and kathy decided to add distraction in to rah - as he went for the db pickup, she tossed a tennisball toy and it flipped up and actually hit him. rah never saw what it was, just knew that something from behind him came up and hit him - he grabbed the db by the side (not the bar) and rah to me - at the same time that another dog cut him off in his path to get to the jump, so he had to go around them, but he still managed to get over the jump. when he landed, the db fell out of his mouth, he stopped, picked it back up (correctly), and came in, and sat in front. i sat there, and i started to say something about how it wasn't right and my trainer stopped me immediately and said pretty much said "YOU REWARD THAT" - think about HOW HARD THAT WAS for him to do his job!

and she was right.

he didn't think twice about not retrieving that db for me - he had a job to go out and get it, and he didn't even consider not getting it, even though it was under a gate and something came out and hit him while he was retrieving.

and then he couldnt get to the jump, but he still changed his path to get over the jump.

then, he dropped the db - but he knew he had to bring it, so he stopped to pick it back up -

and remembered he needed to bring it back to me in a front - not a perfect front, but a pretty good one all the same.

so why shouldn't he be rewarded? no, it wasn't perfect. but that was a very hard set up, something he will hopefully never see in competition, and he did a pretty good job.

i need to be better to him- because he needs to know that even though he didn't nail the LAST part - all those pieces before hand (while not perfect) were REALLY good efforts on his part to salvage what could have been a disaster. A lesser dog would have just refused the db, would have just left the db when hit, would have just ran around the jump, would have just left the db on the ground, and rah could have easily just have skipped the front. ALL of those were really good choices.

i need to remember to reward the steps still - and not just the end result.


Jules said...

wow, c/t to you! and what good trainers to bring it to your attention.

Dawn said...

Absolutely wonderful! Really the fact that Rah did the job so impresses me. cookies to all of you.