Happy, Happy, Obedience Toller

The majority of Vito's obedience training for the past year has been working on ring entrances.  Tons and tons of entering the ring to have a party.  Gradually doing a bit more heeling once inside.  It has helped a TON with entering the ring and setting up at the handful of CDSP obedience trials we've done, but has been a mixed bag  ranging from extremely happy to eh once we take that first step off the line.  And once inside the ring, Vito sometimes will jump up on me before getting his treat (In CDSP food in allowed in between exercises) and sometimes he says no thanks.

It has been extremely slow going to get that first and second entrance completely engaged with me and ready to work without showing him the prize up front.  Motivating Vito has certainly been one of the biggest challenges I've faced in the many dogs I've trained through work.  He's a paradox of being extremely obsessive with toys and sometimes even food, to being eh.  Vito has challenged me to hold a strong line on effort required and to be strong in having the work be exciting because of his engagement and not the other way around.

The past two months has seen the most progress in all of our long time doing this.  Vito finally seems to be making the connection of ring=fun and is choosing to give 100% effort on that first entrance.  If by chance he's a little lacking on those first few steps in, I immediately turn back around and Vito doesn't fail to turn on the charm for the second attempt.  I've been able to up criteria to include quite a bit of heeling fun before the party and occasionally add in a little bit of extra work such as signals.  The main problem we're having now is our heeling is a a jumbled mess of forging, bumping, and jumping as precision completely flew out the window.  I am thrilled!  I just started adding back in a tiny bit of criteria for the forging by adding in some tight left turns on the worst parts.  Awesomest video:

If Vito keeps on this path, things to add in include:
1. Going to more and more places and doing this.  I started doing this a few months ago with him and that was going really well.  More recently I've been having Vito work a bit at empty baseball fields (no ring gates), after doing some exploring with the other dogs.  I've been thrilled with his decision to work without seeing any reward upfront.

2. Tightening heeling criteria back up, and doing longer stretches of normal heeling before exploding into a fun hand touch or something else.  Also adding in more and more of the quick flowy versions of other exercises.

3. Down time- Adding on transitions to other exercises besides heeling.  This will disrupt our flowy fun

4. People- Vito's been doing pretty good with the judge and stewards at the last scattered trials.  In general if I can keep his drive high he doesn't have time to worry about others.  But I do need to continue to reinforce the idea that other people in the ring are no big deal.

There is a CDSP trial next month.  Realistically I know that even if Vito continues to do amazing in practice, 1 month is not enough time to have the carry over I want.  But I will be entering Vito for one run of Open C anyway.  The really nice thing about CDSP is that I have no fears of setting back any of our training.  The ability to praise at any point, and to give food in between exercises is pretty amazing when trying to teach the dog that the ring= a good thing.  So I'm sure that Vito won't have the intensity I want in between exercises, but he's been far enough along in his training that I know he'll still be engaged with me and we can work on classical conditioning the ring.

Muttsandaklutz  – ( September 24, 2013 at 8:23 PM )  

Ohhhh he looks SO happy in that video! Your patience and priority in having a joyful dog in the ring are inspiring. Awesome :)

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