Experimentation

An experiment is in process with the Toller's agility training.

Mini thought process:

  1. Vito is super happy and runs full speed when we train on our own.  This is often done either when we're the only ones in a building or pretty close to it.
  2. Vito can be almost as fast in a very small group class, 1 dog at a time, on Monday nights at location A.
  3. It takes a lot more effort to get Vito running fast in the very loud, split ring class on Thursday nights at location B.  This is typically Lance's class, but Vito's always there.  Doesn't seem to be stressed about anything.
  4. New class started on Wednesday nights in place of Monday's, at location B.  Has only had 4 classes so hard to really judge.  So far he's been fast on 3 of 4 nights, so I'm saying he likes it.  Is quiet, but split ring.
  5. At any group class, he almost always goes faster if he does a sequence and then we immediately get to do a second turn, without another dog going or longer break time.  Opportunity to do so doesn't happen that often.
  6. At trials Vito no longer seems all that worried about ring workers and the judge.  His screaming going into the ring is mostly done un-cued now and he's not looking around for people to worry about. Occasional reactions still happen outside of the ring, usually at at tent setup or at a quieter further away section from the ring.
  7. His start line behavior no longer predicts how fast he decides to run once he actually gets released.
So, I've deducted the following:
  1. Some of Vito's issues is likely still stress related, even if it's not really specific anxiety.  The difference of behavior in classes leads me to think this must be the case.
  2. Training is still going well with being more committed to jumps and accelerating out of wraps/turns!  The times he runs full speed this isn't much of an issue anymore at all!  But I need to keep working on it and building his confidence.
  3. Toys.  I almost always tease Vito with a toy while I'm going into the ring to practice and I think he is currently dependent on seeing the toy for motivation at the start line.  When he's slow Toller I've tried to get him jazzed by playing with the toy first, although it can sometimes take a bit of work.  I haven't wanted to run him without getting his drive up but I also feel that when he's not feeling it I've fallen into the trap I was in with his obedience training.  
This is the new experiment I'm working on, solidified by my plea to the great Silvia Trkman.  I sent her a video of Vito in a slow jumpers run, a video of him practicing, and then my thought that I don't think his trial issues are anxiety related anymore.  I wanted to know if she thought going through her amazing online Foundations course would be helpful for him.  She suggested the toy issue.

So I've been seeing if leaving the toy outside of the ring is having an impact.  Training by myself, it did not.  He was still crazy and we ran back to it often to reward.  Only issue is self rewarding when our line takes us near the area and Vito decides to just keep going instead of turning.  On the positive side he will finish the line of jumps instead!  It's actually been harder for Vito to start at an angle to the toy versus with his back turned to it.  I've been trying to make sure that I tell him to sit and am personally the one to grab the toy and throw it for him when I decide to reward versus letting him grab it himself.

In Wed group class results clearly show that Vito is slower.  Then our 2nd class implementing this strategy the instructor came up with a really great idea.  I left the toy near the ring gates but then she picked it up once we started running.  During mid course she threw the toy at a pre set location so Vito still got a reward.  I'm not fully ready to implement this plan yet in group class.  First I want to make sure he's a bit more confident with leaving the toy on our Tues morning alone practice before I start asking him to do it in group class.

Fingers are crossed that working through leaving a toy at the start line will help his motivation in trials.  At the very least it's a good skill to have!

Muttsandaklutz  – ( September 6, 2013 at 8:56 PM )  

Cool -- sounds like you've got some great new insight there!

Kristen  – ( September 7, 2013 at 8:10 PM )  

I love your processing and training plan.

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