More obedience this week!
Zumi is being restarted on her article training as it's been about a year since she has last done it successfully. She seemed to have a difficult time finding my scent when I was pregnant so I just put it on the sidelines. I'm restarting with food on the article and went back to lids as she was WAY too retrieve happy. I was able to originally teach her with a retrieve indication from the start as while she was excited, Zumi's retrieve drive wasn't nearly as strong as it is now. I'm sure we will get the scent work back quickly but it definitely needs retraining.
Vito I planned on using a lot more food rewards in this session as I had been focusing a lot on working with personal play and any rewards off my body. I'm wanting to work more on precision and proofing challenges with him now which would require more rewards.
I found in this session that Vito had a difficult time doing slow heeling with a right turn. He thought it was an invitation to do his "behind" reward cue (it does look similar!) so I did some proofing to tackle that issue. Then later on in our session I found an issue with Vito not sitting when cued on his go out. Going all the way to do his touch trumped the value of the sit. Personally I would much rather have that problem than the opposite! I did some cookie toss sits to remind him of sitting at a distance before putting it back together.
More obedience this week!
I've started back teaching again for the obedience club since Netta's arrival. Just one night a week but this also gives me time to train my dogs before class. They haven't really done any obedience in months besides some tiny drills in the house.
Zumi has mainly been working on 3 things
1. Go outs- Still our main issue of not taking the jump on the way out. She's great with cones and really has improved a ton with this issue over the year but it's still a real choice for her.
2. Retrieve over the high- Opposite issue of our go out :) Zumi's super strong desire to fetch makes it hard for her think on off-centered retrieves. She has no problem playing this game with targets and food all around the clock. But must fetch as fast as possible!
3. Finishes. A new problem that wasn't there before our long break. Zumi has been cutting her left finish short and also seems to occasionally be confused on what her "around" cue means.
This is the first half of our practice session this week, focusing on the 2nd two issues.
Vito has still been working on our main goal of engagement and choosing to work. Overall that has continued to go well. He even seems to be sniffing less before we start work- a problem that cropped up after our experiment a year ago (with a lesson to me on how to structure it differently next time!). So I've been adding in some more instance on precision for him, not just his free for all. Slower heeling. Active proofing to get him thinking on his finishes. And still lots of reward for fast, fold back downs; a lifetime issue for Vito.
The tollers have done 2 more agility trials since I last posted. One day of USDAA the first weekend of March and then we just got done with 2 days of UKI this past weekend.
It's just hit me that Vito has really settled into a nice, consistent agility dog. He has come a long way since I was close to retiring him a few years ago! Recently just his first run of the day is his slower run and then he's been deciding to run for the rest. He's never been much of a morning dog.
I still limit his runs to 3-4 the first day and generally 2 on the 2nd day if I do one.
No video of his USDAA runs but he went 3 for 3, even getting a difficult weaving gamble!
UKI he was 4 for 6 with all very solid runs. So close on this super fun jumpers course!
Zumi is also maturing nicely alongside just a tiny bit of "whee!" runs. USDAA she was incredibly solid for her 4 runs. Listening to cues! I still have a long way to go though in really learning how to handle her.
And we still have some focus issues with people distractions. She kinda loses her mind with her favorite people still. Flail!!!
Grandma was nice enough to visit again for the UKI and Zumi couldn't quite handle it for her first run. Especially when she lost track of where she was! Second run was better so there is some improvement going on.
Run #1 where I hardly had a dog:
And her last run on saturday in the challenging masters heat class. Sucked into 2 tunnels but I was proud of her on an advanced level course:
Final run of the weekend was the master challengers standard course which she came so close to qualifying but just had to rush to the dogwalk! Video is pretty low quality but it was my favorite run of the weekend!:
Things are kinda coming together!
Since Netta has arrived the dogs and I have had our schedule drastically changed. No longer are we all going to work every day. Work involved many stressers for the Toller. Two long car rides. Staying in the cubicle area while Mom abandoned him to train the service dogs. Seeing favorite coworkers come in for the day and not always being able to hang out with them. Then seeing coworkers pack up to head home and thinking he may be left all alone..forever! Really most of Vito's anxieties at work boiled down to me not being able to be with him the majority of the day. He would have been a very relaxed dog if he could just sleep at my feet all day. Drugs helped. And helped with the car rides too. Really Vito was doing pretty well with the situation and his current drugs. But still daily stress.
And now Vito is a stay at home dog. A very relaxed stay at home dog. Mom is always there. Car rides are way less frequent and usually very short. Happy Toller.
And at this point I'm still keeping Vito on his base drug, which currently is Sertraline. I'm not sure if I should keep him on it or not. A part of me hopes that maybe Vito could get used to being left alone again for short periods of time. Perhaps without the daily stressers in the other areas he will be able to handle it. His separation anxiety has always been his biggest issue. But at one point, several years ago, Vito was able to be left alone for a few hours. With the help of drugs of course.
The tollers got to do another agility weekend!
But first, I forgot to wrap up Zumi's USDAA trial last weekend. Overshadowed by Vito's championship! Zumi actually had her best agility trial yet. Very focused on Saturday and much more responsive to handling than she has shown in other trials. Growing up! Sunday had a bit more distractions when Grandma came to watch and Zumi wanted to maul Grandma vs focusing on warming up. Definitely a training issue that still needs to be worked on! She still managed to do some very nice runs on Sunday. Her only "bad" run of the weekend was the very last run where she left me once to run over to the wall of spectators and then while she didn't leave me after that her brain was still thinking about her audience. That's ok, I also had a stupid run where I did the opening the masters course with her instead of the advanced course. Beautiful run, but not exactly what the judge laid out for us!
I made a montage of her good moments!!
This weekend I was glad it was UKI as Zumi decided to come into heat and UKI has no problems with girls still competing. I think it's ridiculous that other organizations have not come on board with the same allowance. In Europe it's seen as just a training issue. And while Zumi was just in the beginning of her heat cycle at the trial this weekend, I don't think any dog had a major problem with it. A bit more sniffy and excited perhaps, but everyone was able to run their course.
I think Zumi had more of an issue with running during her cycle than anyone else! I was grateful I was able to take the dogs to the facility on Friday night for a fun run. Zumi was much more sniffy of the grounds than she has ever shown. But once in the ring she was very focused! At the trial on Saturday it was about the same. Sniffy and more easily distracted than usual outside of the ring, but doing fairly well inside. We had some issues on the startline for her first 2 runs of the day on Saturday as Zumi had to sit on a towel. She did not want to sit on that towel! Very weirded out by what should have been a non issue since Zumi knows "go mat" games very well! But we worked through it with treats and then she didn't have an issue the rest of the weekend.
Unfortunately, we couldn't qualify at all. Lovely runs with just a few baby dog mistakes of running by obstacles, a dropped bar, or refusal. I do think her runs got better with each one, and her speed increased too.
Zumi had one incident at the trial though where I didn't think I was going to get her in the ring. Shockingly there were quite a few spectators at the trial on Sunday and before Zumi's jumpers run there was a mom with 2 young children. Zumi saw the kids and was terrified. This is not a new issue for her, she's been wary of kids and definitely undersocialized to them. I'm not worried about Netta as she will grow up gradually getting used to more movement and Zumi's personality just isn't one where I'm concerned. I think it will remain to be seen though if I can get her comfortable with other people's kids! But at the trial she was freaked out more than usual, likely due to all her hormones playing games with her. I politely asked the mom to move off to the side isle where Zumi wouldn't be able to see them before her run. The mom mentioned her kids not being able to see if they were over there, but I nicely asked again and mentioned Zumi would be the very last dog anyway. The mom agreed and moved off but when I took Zumi out of her crate again I saw that they just moved 15ft down the line and were now directly in front of the entrance, actually touching the gates... I'm not mad the family was at the show. Zumi's issue is just that, an issue we need to work on. But I also didn't think it was unreasonable that I asked them to move for one dog.
Zumi was freaked out and I didn't even know if she would enter the ring with me. I entered on the exit side and brought her ball in with me, trying to play with her. I am SO glad UKI allows non-qualifying toy runs!!! Shockingly Zumi did enter the ring with me and while I totally lured her with that ball on the setup, she obliged. And even better she had an amazing run! I ended it early so that she wouldn't go near the entrance again and would be far from the kids who were actually hanging on the ring gates.
Here is Zumi's toy run with the kids at the gate:
And here is her standard run on Sunday:
Vito also had a great trial on Saturday. Very Happy Toller! And then on Sunday he was a really good boy but not as fast. Lots of Qs all weekend though even on some challenging courses.
I think I might go to just one day a weekend for Vito. In the past Vito has been terribly inconsistent about whether he is faster on day 1 vs day 2 in the same way that he's not predictable on whether the first run or the last run is better. But, since Vito's getting a bit older now, limiting him to one day might be something to consider.
Here was his only run I got on film. Actually I felt this jumpers run was his slowest run of the weekend. Still a very nice that I'm happy with:
I usually do some toy runs for Vito in UKI but I chose not to do that at this trial. Vito's been Vito with his agility runs for years now and while has made TONS of progress with his anxieties in it, not really anything has changed in the last 2(?) years. Vito runs fast when he wants to and runs meh when he wants to. Toy runs really haven't made any difference for Vito except for being magically faster the second half of the same run he got a surprise reward in. I don't think Vito needs any more classical conditioning and confidence building with trials (agility), which is really a good thing. I think it's just pure motivation issues which aren't going to change with rewarding in the ring only a small portion of the time. Maybe if there were a lot more UKI trials it would be different. I think our jackpot training and leaving his ball at a distance in practice have been and will continue to be the best plan for him. That and me being completely at peace with whatever he decides to give me in a trial.
Spoiler alert- Vito earned his ATCH this weekend at the USDAA trial! He needed 1 jumpers Q and 1 Super Q in snooker. Honestly it was a feat I wasn't sure would ever happen for him. Jumpers is his least favorite class and he's prone to going slow and knocking bars, but it's also very doable for him. But in snooker Vito has gotten the points needed so many times and just not the speed needed to beat the other great teams for those special super qs!
I took the tollers to their first trial in 4 months. So excited to compete as well as just getting out of the house, It was also our first time at the new jump heights. Zumi was already assured to jump 20in and Vito I wanted to remeasure as I was certain that he was easily under 19in tall in order to make that 20in cutoff as well. He made the measurement easily! I'm extra excited as I wasn't sure how much longer I wanted him jumping 22" but 20" is so much easier for him. It's amazing what just 2in can do,
Vito had 3 runs on Saturday. Jumpers was first and he needed 1 more towards his ATCH title. Well Vito was pretty happy and put out a solid run. Not warp speed but not a Sad Toller run either.
Standard was the same although Vito missed his dogwalk contact on a very easy straight exit. It's been a long time since that's happened! And then finally snooker. Since he was in the new 20in class now there were less dogs and an easier chance of getting that SQ. We pulled out a 50pt run and waited. I was a bit dismayed to see 1 team who also did 50pts slow down and not go for speed at the end. She mistakenly entered championship when they're now in performance and didn't want to take a placement away, but I didn't want to win that way. She didn't know I was going for my ATCH. Oh well. So Vito won his height. I did feel better to see that (sadly) all the top teams made errors at 22in and Vito's score would actually have gotten first in that height as well.
Vito's first championship. My first championship.
Vito must be content with his new accomplishment as his 2 runs the next day were more flat. Still manged to pull off a difficult gamble but not really excited about the day.
I've started resuming some of the dog's obedience training lately. Still no time to go the club and actually have some space for the bigger exercises, but I've been working on the little things in my tiny living room. Training with their dinner has always been easiest for me as I have to get off my butt anyway to dish up food and it requires no special treats.
My dogs don't have a ton of house manner rules. They can jump on me. They're allowed on furniture of course. The Corgi often leads obnoxious barking bouts at what are clearly grave threats to the household. They charge out the door when opened. And they are all very good supervisors of our food. SUPERVISORS is the key word in my mind. The main rule in my house is you can watch the food, even snuggle up close while I eat, but do not even think about eating it. I often set my food down and even leave the room and only have to fear the cat who seemingly springs out from nowhere. But never the dogs.
Zumi's station every time I eat is to place her head in my lap. She doesn't even look at the food and if I accidently drop a piece she doesn't even lift her head.
But apparently she's acting out since Netta has come home. Or more likely her lower exercise and mental stimulation the last several months has gotten to her. Because Zumi has broken my main rule more than once now.
So now we will go back to basics and revisit training and management. I admit that this skill that all my dogs and long term fosters have had is not one I explicitly teach them. It just kinda comes with our everyday life and gradually pushing their understanding of rules.
First I will review her automatic leave it in training mode. Is the dog truly able to resist a distraction without any clue from you? If you're having to give a verbal cue, or even just a small stop in your motion then the dog isn't quite there yet. And keep in mind that it's the first rep that really counts, not the ones after the dog knows it's a proof. This with Zumi I'm certain is solid. But a dog's ability to ignore distractions and concentrate on work is not even close to the skill level needed to ignore distractions when not working. Zumi may still have some work to go with automatically ignoring things but overall she gets the game pretty well,
Outside of training sessions is where most of our work will take place, I will do all of it without giving Zumi any cue to leave it or stay as I want it to be automatic. If she was a different dog who really struggled I would consider using boundary training or place training to provide structure but Zumi doesn't need that.
First duration. This is easy for me to practice because I'm lazy, I'll just eat my meal, usually on the couch, and leave my plate sitting next to me. In easy reach so I am a part of the picture still. Duration will also naturally work on another variable such as my focus waning in and out. Zumi still has this stage down pat.
I think it's important to note that I don't ever reward from my plate when doing this training as I don't want Zumi thinking about when she is going to be able to eat it. I want her to completely ignore the food altogether, knowing that it's not going to be hers. Actually in this training at home I don't even like using food rewards at all, just calm praise. Unlike in her sport training where I want her to leave a reward and focus on me, in this every day life moment I ideally want Zumi to not focus on what I'm doing at all. Go chew a bone, take a nap, wrestle with the cat, I don't care. Of course since supervision doesn't bother me either I also don't mind if she does choose to lay her head in my lap and closely watch either! And I have fed my dogs directly from my plate quite often, but I will be suspending that with Zumi until she is back on track.
My movement and distance will be another variable. She has already proved she can leave food without my focus on her so now would be seeing if she can leave it while I stand up from the couch. Then whether I can pick up something in my hand, or bend down to touch my toes, etc. Can I move to the kitchen with direct eye contact? Move away without the eye contact reminder?
Next the dog's movement if she hasn't done that on her own already, I want to see that she has no problem walking away from food. I will reward any cues given to come but then dismiss her again and go back to pretending the food isn't there. I don't want her in training mode. And a release is not a free for all, I want to see Zumi relaxing and not thinking about running back to my food. A hard step for many!
And finally the big one, going out of sight again. This will be done only after she doesn't need my eye contact as a clue that I'm paying attention and isn't glued to its location. Quick around the corner and back. Not drawing too much attention to anything. Low key praise as needed, but overall me being gone as no big deal. The food doesn't exist.
Of course management is going to be equally important. No leaving food unguarded again for quite awhile. If your dog struggles with this training management will be far more important than any training, Keep training steps easy so that you don't have to body block or verbally cue your dog. The more you have to help your dog the less your dog is practicing impulse control. Actually progressing to quickly can mean your dog is learning more about how long your arms are and how fast you can run than anything else. It's amazing the calculus a dog can do to figure out whether they can beat you to the food before you even see what's happening!
I am also reminded to always keep in my mind my dog's personality to have realistic expectations. The Corgi humbles me often in this department. As long as a body, a conscious body, is in the house he wouldn't dream of tearing into any food and raiding any desks/tables in search. I;m willing to be that he would leave a hamburger on the floor untouched for hours. But if nobody is home or everyone is sleeping then he is on a mission in an instant. He is going to be 10 in a few months and still can't be trusted outside of his crate or being closed in the bedroom when left alone.