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.
My doctors have cleared me to restart running with the dogs so back I went to agility class. Zumi has desperately needed to do some training and the once a week work will have to do until spring.
Surprisingly Zumi's been extremely thoughtful in her 2 classes so far. No nearly as orbity and Wahoo-y! as I expected her to be. She sure doesn't make up for any bad handling on my part though.
Vito I was also not sure what to expect with his return. He had a long break this past summer and when he was able to get back to training he was absolutely insane for weeks. Couldn't even sit at the start line his arousal was so high. This time Vito was the opposite. Calm. Listening well. Not quite running full speed but trying hard and saving my butt with some bad handling. He's only done 1 class and I'll have to see what to do with the dogs the rest of this winter. I can have both dogs in the same class but that's harder for me mentally with the different handling and of course physically as I'm so not in shape. I had been alternating dogs each week over the summer.
There are 2 trials coming up in early February that I'm thinking about entering. 1 USDAA and 1 UKI. Zumi of course is due to come in heat as we just can't time our breaks together I guess.
The Corgi of course is retired, or semi-retired really. Lance will still compete in WCRL rally since the jump bars can be moved to the ground for him. Lance did several trials this last year in level 3 and earned his level 3 excellent title with glee. I have no interest in getting any of the combined level 1/2/3 titles with him so we will keep playing in level 3 for fun. He was incredibly sassy this last year and let me know he can do what he wants now. Mainly barking on not just the "backwards" type stuff of backing up in heel and the left pivots, but also just whenever he feels like it. And of course some forging is coming back as well. So happy!
We also played with a bit of nosework earlier in the year. I wanted to give Lance something to do now that he's retired. Lance had fun training it but he's certainly not a natural! Unfortunately I dropped off my training by summer. I'm going to try to re-motivate myself to pick it back up again as I know he will still have fun training for it. I just have never liked scent work training personally.
Vito's year was mainly one big break. 2015 was the start to our obedience experiment and that continued through spring last year. I've since worked on more jackpot training with him again but a ton more emphasis on true choosing to work without seeing any rewards up front or any real effort on my part to encourage him to start. Vito knows when work is an option and doesn't need me to plead with him. For the most part it's going extremely well. Vito still takes quite a while to choose to work sometimes but when he does start his energy is very high. I've started working more on precision again with Vito but it's hard as to truly work on that I would want to up my rate of rewards and do fun "drills" and I don't want to do that with Vito yet. Maybe not ever again with him, who knows. Vito needs the most work on motivation when he knows rewards aren't forthcoming, well and all the ring confidence work with people pressure too.
I did enter Vito in exactly 3 trials this year in rally. Vito isn't really a rally dog but I knew it would be easier for him with teh extra support I can give and with way less people pressure. The first 2 trials were WCRL and he was a very pushy boy! Some distraction issues with the food bowls but he recovered and was even sassier afterwards. The last trial was AKC rally at our club. Sadly this did not go as well. Vito and I finished the course and other than me choosing not to redo a sign he couldn't do with the judge behind us, he scored well. But he was worried by that judge and with the higher pressure environment in general. It seems as though our AKC goals will remain a once a year evaluation of where his mental game is at.
Sadly an injury plagued us most of the year and Vito didn't get many agility trials in. Not much changed with Vito in agility. Some really good runs where Vito ran full speed. He even got 2 difficult gambles! And then some mediocre runs where Vito just didn't feel like running fast. Like the past years, he still seems happy in these runs and not worried, just not speedy.
I am currently debating about what height to jump him this upcoming year. Vito is not old, just 8yrs, and isn't having issues jumping 22in. But well he's Vito. Vito only needs 1 more jumpers Q and 1 more Super Q in snooker to get his ATCH and I admit I want to try to go for it. I know that Vito might not ever get that last Super Q and I"m ok with that, but I don't want to rule it out before it's time. I'm also hoping that Vito will get remeasured to be under 19in with the new USDAA jump heights. I've easily gotten him under 19 when I've measured him in practice and this would allow him to jump 20in instead of 22in.
Vito also did some nosework last spring and loved it like I knew he would. We didn't get far but Vito is definitely a natural at the sport. Too bad competitions with him are out as there is no way he could handle the strict trial environment of dogs waiting at the cars and not being able to walk around.
Finally Vito did a tiny amount of gun dog work in the spring. Unlike Zumi, Vito was over the top excited by the prospect of real birds. We worked on taming the savage. Mainly teaching Vito to take another reward in exchange for a calm hold on a bird instead of thinking he could rip into the bird as a reward...
2016 was Zumi's trial debut in agility! A few issues with greeting ring crew and general WaHoo! running past obstacles and not turning. But overall I am thrilled with how she did. She earned her starters title and moved up to advanced. Unfortunately due to being in heat at the beginning of the season and then myself being on restriction ruining the end of the year trials, Zumi didn't get to trial as much as I planned. At least there is plenty of time!
In obedience/rally I first started Zumi in WCRL rally and earned her level 1, 2, and 3 titles. Then in the summer I tried her in CDSP obedience and earned her novice title. I was thrilled with her level of focus and precision she offered me. Just a few issues that I know we're still working on in practice. I entered her in AKC rally novice for 3 runs at our club this October to earn her first AKC title. I was happy with her performances but she also showed me that the AKC environment was a bit too much for her right now. While her focus and attitude remained high, Zumi was unable to do some simple tasks even outside of the ring that I know she knows well. I was planning on entering her in AKC obedience this spring, but will now hold off a little bit until I know she's more comfortable.
Gun dog stuff was almost all done in the spring. I introduced Zumi to her first real bird which was interesting. Zumi is very hesitant to pick up any bird that she hasn't been properly introduced to first. Then she is super excited! If it wasn't for the "new bird" issue I would say Zumi is ready to pass her WC test. Somebody kick the handler to get more practice in!
Disc dog was even less practiced. I did get to go to 2 seminar this year to work with Zumi. A lot of fun!
She's home! Ringing in the new year, Netta decided she was ready to come with us on January 1st. She came home at 34 days in the NICU, at 35weeks. Quite a bit earlier than their initial guess and the schedule kept getting bumped up in the last two weeks. I originally planned to wrangle homes for Vito for early January as I was going to have to stay in the hospital to work on getting Netta transitioned to a "feed on demand" schedule and transition her off her feeding tube. But then Christmas evening the staff decided she was showing great signs of being ready for that process that day! I am so grateful for all who offered to take Vito into their homes so I could do what I needed to do for Netta. Netta ended up only needing a week to fully get her strength built up to take all meals by mouth, so Netta and Vito ended up coming home earlier than planned again.
A bit scary taking her away from her monitoring systems. It even felt weird being able to walk around with her past a small radius that her cords would reach!
Netta passed her car seat test of being able to maintain breathing while being slouched in the car seat, but needed a double crotch roll under her butt in order to be snug. Netta in the car seat really drove home all tiny she is! Netta was 4lbs 12oz when leaving.
Due to her 10wk early preemie status and the limitation on crowds, I did have to quit my job as a service dog trainer. They highly recommend no daycare for as long as possible, a minimum of 6 months past her initial due date of February. Vito will love being a stay at home dog! And thankfully I still have my online classes at Fenzi Academy to help provide a little income.
The tollers are curious of Netta, but are being very respectful. I'm sure Zumi will have some issues once Netta is more mobile, but right now she is being an angel. Lance is such a go with the flow dog that I'm not sure he's done more than the initial courtesy sniff? He knows he will be in charge of her later but figures I can handle it for now I guess.