Retrieve Arousal Levels Update

I've been continuing to work on Zumi's little squeal with her dumbbell sends.  And I'm excited to say we have made another breakthrough, however small!

I've been trying the following ideas to help bring Zumi's arousal level down with her dumbbell:

  1. Doing work with the db on the ground for awhile before sending.
  2. Throw the db and heel away, then eventually mark and send her to it.
  3. Throw random objects for her to retrieve from keys to water bottles to anything else I find around me.
The first idea wasn't really new to her.  Zumi is very used to having her dumbbell and other stuff on the floor while we work and doesn't really obsess over it.  It's primarily the excitement of the throw that gets her, but it was good to revisit this idea to make sure it wasn't an issue.

The next idea was something I again did a while ago with her but haven't done in a long time.  This is still mildly difficult for her.  Zumi can turn away from the db and do work but I can see some slight hesitation on the turn away.  Occasionally if I'm heeling and halt facing the db I can see Zumi give the db a quick glance.  That toss before doing work certainly gets her arousal level up.  However when I eventually mark and send her to the db she doesn't squeal.  I will be doing more of this work in her future.

The final idea was doing formal retrieves of different items.  Zumi already knows how to retrieve random items, although she's a little rusty with being smooth with the pickup and delivery.  I do a quick warm up with each item by handing it to her to hold before setting her up and tossing it.

This has been the biggest help to her arousal issues in the last few weeks!  No squeals at all on sends to different items and then I can even throw her db pretty far and she still doesn't squeal! I think the reason for this is because she is thinking so hard on HOW she is going to pick up the awkward items that it just tones down her adrenaline a bit.  It's hard work!

I'm not sure if this will continue to help as her confidence increases with being able to smoothly pick up all the items, but it's at least been an interesting route!


UKI & USDAA weekend

We had one more agility weekend this past week with the tollers!  Split the weekend from an indoor UKI trial  and an outdoor USDAA.  I was torn between my greater lover for UKI trials and actually getting to play outside!

Saturday was UKI.  Thanks to her big points she earned from her master standard run at the midwest cup she only needed a single game Q to get out of senior and into the championship level.  Zumi really ended up sailing through senior, especially considering how long we spent in novice!

She managed to earn that in a gambers run on saturday.  Sadly no other Q's.  Nice runs, listening SO well without any over arousal issues at all.  Just a stupid refusal on a backside serp, or doing a bonus backside, or sucking in out of a straight tunnel....  All my fault. 

This was one of my favorite runs on Saturday.  I missed that she didn't make her DW until seeing the video.  Then at the end I don't think I really cued the bonus backside but I sure didn't cue the front of the jump either!

Sunday was a gorgeous day to be outside!
Gamblers was made for Zumi but somehow we still didn't get it. Sigh, zero masters gamblers Q for Zumi so far...

Standard was clean though!  And she listened to her pleading "come, come come" cues for the DW turn! I knew I was going to do a late blind before the aframe but it worked and we managed to be clean!

A super Q in snooker too!

And a jumpers run that she oddly went around the outside of a jump and then sucked in later off another jump.  Maybe just tired at the end of the day?

I thought Vito was running pretty slow in all his runs this weekend.  It wasn't until I got home and actually looked at videos that I saw it didn't look as bad as it felt.  He wasn't fast, but he was still trying.

This was Vito's first run of the day on Saturday and it felt like a death march. But doesn't look too bad!  Video always makes it look better :)

He did seem to get faster over his 3 runs on Saturday.  It doesn't help that jumpers always been his hardest.

But Sunday was definitely slower.  Snooker should have been a super Q run with points but he really was plodding and ran out of time at the 10th weave pole of the last #7 obstacle in the closing.  Oh well.  He made someone else very happy to earn their ADCH with that last super Q!

Standard we did a random backside but at least was faster than that snooker run.

Maybe he's liking indoor trials more now in his old age?! Or he's just Vito and I never know how he's going to feel like moving!

Boykin came along and did pretty well with offering focus to the best of his 4 month old ability!
However when I did let him say hi to people he was way more mouthy and jumpy then he's been recently!!


TEAM 3 Practice

Now that the weather is finally nice and we can train outside I've been doing more TEAM 3 stuff with Zumi again.  All the exercises are very familiar to her and have been for a while.

The challenge we are working on now is putting stuff in sequence.  I'm always amazed at how behavior can break a little when you start jumping right in from one exercise to the next!
We have great flow and connection between exercises, it's just the confidence of getting it correct on the first time without any little warm up!

It's not always the same thing that "breaks" but of course there's always 1 little thing!

So no actual testing yet.  I'll practice going from exercise to exercise, but not always in the same order and no hesitation to break something out and work on the little pieces again before trying the full exercise.

The exercise that has surprised me the most that she's struggled with on the first rep is the retrieve with distraction!  I ALWAYS have Zumi offer to spit out her toy and than work on the dumbbell with the toy on the ground still.  So I was shocked with Zumi several times went for the toy during our test practices.

I think the added difficulties were:
- I was the one to put the toy on the ground, not Zumi offering to drop it

- I practiced ending the heeling portion then going to get the toy where it is located off to the side.

This must look to Zumi like I'm getting the toy to reward her great heeling when really I'm just going to get it for the distraction piece and plan on playing with her AFTER the retrieve.  I bet if rewarded her with the toy first then set it on the ground it would look more similar to our usual training setup and be easier for her.

Other little issues that have cropped up are
- anticipating the 2nd position change!  A little bit of a suprise as she's done so well with position changes and waiting, but not a huge shock.

- Angled front after the mini go out/directed cones.  Zumi typically has pretty great fronts from cookie tosses and cone sends but this is making me aware that it's not consistent yet on that "first" rep. The one that really counts!

I've been doing a lot more cookie toss fronts in the house and I've been able to replicate some issues.  If there's not much space behind me after the front she's more likely to be slightly off in anticipation of turning for the thrown reward vs being sent through my legs.  And if I put the reward behind her she has a hard time fully turning her back to the reward even if she's not trying to look at it.  Zumi wants to be slightly angled to the pressure.



The Boykin foster is doing well.  Eating things, well mainly wanting to eat things has been a struggle still though.  He's mostly doing well with ignoring items on the floor that aren't dog stuff (huge win!) but he continues to amaze me with what he will try to get into.  Yesterday I left him in his xpen with a nylabone and his bowl of food while I went to get breakfast ready.  When I returned I found he had pried off the rubber bottom of the stainless steel bowl and had ingested a chunk.  Thankfully only a 1in strip.

I've had others tell me that ingesting items is a normal spaniel thing.  I think that's crazy if they are right!  How do they not get blockages?!

Boykin's training is going ok otherwise.  He's super eager and loves his cookies :)  Not jumping up towards hands or just to punch me in general has been a bigger struggle than I can remember with other puppies.  He quickly learned to wait for food delivery and give eye contact, but motion from me results in boings again.  Boingkin is more representative of his name.

It has turned our pivot training into me teaching the "find heel" while I stand still before I teach "maintain heel" while I actually move around the perch.

Here was Splash from a few weeks ago working on actually focusing on his target and not punching me:

And here he is this past week finally working on me taking a step forward to have him maintain heel.  He's still bouncing with my movement but is actually trying to stay on the perch now!

Splash also is doing x1000 better with his recalls!  I know how environmental spaniels can be and Splash certainly was the most tuned into sniffing and staring at things out of the other dogs I've raised!  But he likes his cookies and usually can be snapped out of sniffing to run to me.  Still a long line!

I am undecided still if I'm a spaniel person or not!  He's super sweet, cuddly. Very closely bonded to his people to the point that I'm recommending Splash have regular foster home vacations every month or so just to get him comfortable being with different households and not stressed about it. 
He just spent a weekend with another foster family and did well! 


UKI Midwest Cup

It's been quite the busy month!  We packed up and moved most of our belongings into my parent's basement or into the shed.  Finding time to go back to our house to actually finish cleaning it and empty the garage has been difficult!

But before I dive into some of the updates I wanted to brag on Zumi!  We went to our first "big" competition this last weekend, the UKI Midwest Cup.  It involved our first trial with an overnight stay.  

Zumi wasn't thrilled with the hotel whenever we were by ourselves. She paced and stood at the door, and wouldn't eat any of her food.  But when our roommates were in the room she was happy, relaxed, and seemed to feel more certain that it was where we were supposed to be.  Zumi also decided she could eat kibble as long as it wasn't hers.

I wasn't sure how she would handle the trial environment but she kept her wits about!  Her startline issues seemed even better than they have been at the local shows!  Day 1 had a little pitter patter and at least 1 run with a quick scoot, but by day 2 she was pretty solid!  

Our jumping type runs were our weakest point but that's true in our local shows too.  She tries, just a few wheeee moments where she can't quite turn.  Some my mistakes, some hers. Her 2 standard runs were my favorite.  

My fault for the knocked bar for being in her way, but she listened the whole run!  And even turned off her running dogwalk to get the weaves and not suck in the tunnel!  

Gamblers was a phenomenally smooth run for 3rd place. Sadly I earned her a refusal in the snooker closing which knixed our chances at a medal.

Day 2 really came together for us.  She was much more handler focused overall.  That meant she didn't make up for my handling on that snooker run, but not as wide of turns.

Standard on day 2, biathlon agility, I wasn't thrilled with my conservative handling of a turn after the wall jump but hey at least I avoided the 2 tunnel trap possibilities with it! And I sadly got rewarded for my wussy approach by coming in first place of the 20in class.  So many border collie E's...

But apparently, Zumi got 3rd for biathlon of all the 20 in dogs!  I left the trial for our long drive home before knowing we would be on the podium.

And her final placement for all 8 classes of the cup was 4th in the 20in class!  We made a lot of mistakes, but the courses were eating dogs left and right.   Super, super fun courses but challenging!

I'm glad we went and now I'm even more excited for November's UKI US Open!

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