miss Lu

Since this blog is supposed to be about Lu, I guess I should probably actually write a post about her.

Not that much to say though – I’m rarely training her and I think this works best. I try and only train her after I get home from work because then I get maximum enthusiasm from her.

So here it is: basically an entire training session with Lu. The actual video went for 7 minutes – so there was a bit of extra time there with her in a drop stay while I got more food for her toy, and a bit of extra time at the end after I finished with her before I turned the camera off. But otherwise, it’s pretty much “as is”.

Anyway… nothing too exciting, I just like seeing my happy girl and feeling like she’s really running a bit more.

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finishing a session with the Loki

So recently with all our RC training, I’ve run into an interesting dilemma with Mr. Loki which is how to end a session.

Loki is a dog who loves agility. Just loves it. Even when he fails he tries and tries and never looses speed. Only when he’s really tired does he start making weird mistakes and I’ve only seen that happen maybe twice (and one time was when family was visiting and they wanted demos!). Whenever I open the front door he runs straight to the gate of the agility paddock and is so sad when I tell him we’re not going in. So for Loki, rewards are so cool and awesome, but so is going more agility!

As we were doing RC, Nic suggested I should finish the session when he did a really great hit, have a huge party and leave it there. To which I think there’s merit – the last thing he got out of the RC session was the awesome hit, so that’s the most recent experience he’ll have to think over… but on the other hand, he could very easily be a dog who learns that hitting well = ending the fun!

So I’ve had to develop a bit of a plan (or, at least I’m in the process of developing the plan) where if he does a great hit we have a huge party – he gets his squeaky ball, I throw grass for him to catch (it’s weird but it’s one of his favourite games), he hops in the bathtub and splashes around, I kick his squeaky ball and he pounces it and gets told how wonderful and fast and strong and brave he is. And then, he gets to do some easy stuff usually involving tunnels. When we’ve had a few goes at the tunnels, I finish him up – letting him know he’s wonderful and everything but without the fanfare of the RC hit. I don’t assume that he would associate doing tunnels with ending agility – just that the work is over for now and he got his toy and all is well… but he also won’t link ending the fun with RC at all. He’s so funny. Our last session was at 4/4 JPs with starting from a wrap about 4m-5m from the end of the dogwalk, and about 50% from 2 very hard spots on the DW. I’m sort of mixing GTCG with full-length running right now. The fact that he was hitting on the big speed ones was really impressive BUT… he’s not running normally during it – I wonder if he’s trying to work his legs out, he’s doing a long-ish stride over the 1st apex, then a short stride and then normal after that, but no/minimal RF separation until the very last stride off the DW. All this is resulting mostly in front feet hits, and I’m just not sure how well he’d be able to maintain this striding. I’m actually not worried about it, I think he’s learning so much right now and trying so hard to figure it out, and we’re having more successes right now than we have had for the last month or so, but it’s so interesting watching him working it all out and to see where it’s going to go from here.

It’s funny, I was just watching S. Garrett’s conference call video that she did (as I’m curious about different methods and why so many people down here take her word as gospel), and she keeps referring to the E-Book that you could download (which I had downloaded), and basically it was about teaching wraps around a pool noodle. And they keep saying how much it’ll make your dog love agility, and how much more confident they’ll get, and how much faster they’ll get and I thought: That is one of Lumen’s LEAST favourite things in the whole world. I can think of no better way to demotivate her than trying to get her to run out and go around something.  Apparently, as long as the object has “value”, your dog will want to do it faster. Well, Lu really enjoys shaping around the wrap. She enjoys doing multiple circles around the object even. But why would she need to run full speed out to wrap it? I don’t think she’s silly, my girl. 😉

I just get frustrated with people on the internet who seem to suggest that if you do this one thing or that one thing that your dog will get faster magically, or that there’s this one missing piece. I felt like that with Lu for a long time – maybe when her iliopsoas was fixed she’d be faster, maybe when she got desexed she’d be faster. Y’know what? Maybe she just has a hard time going fast, or doesn’t see the point. And we’re working on it – I’m doing lots of fast, short, fun, easy things with her right now, and that’s fine, but teaching her to do one exercise or one trick, or by just trying to make her more excited isn’t going to do it for her.

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speed demon

I’m trying something new/old with Lu.

I know, I know what you’re thinking, “Em, you do this every couple of months”. At the moment I’m waiting on a reply from Polona about what I do next but basically the other day I set up a super easy little sequence.

And then I back-chained. And after each go she got a thrown ball and either a big jackpot play or hose game or something. And she seemed to really like it. Here’s the video from the other day:

(I left in all the inbetween playing bits for Polona)

Then I did a new sequence tonight which used a similar concept- building on really simple little sections  that didn’t involve any thinking or slowing down. Big open courses with no discriminations, no consequences for doing things wrong, no hard tunnel entrances, just RUNNING…
And… I think she likes it. I think this could be good for her. Really good. Really get her to understand that agility is about running fast, and about having fun, and just about go go go… and then when she’s doing that, add in a turn here, or a discrimination, or a tricky tunnel. Just one, and the rest about running. And then add another one. Which means no tough sequences for a while, no ‘international’ stuff. Just fun ‘novice’ level stuff. Which is ok.

A lovely thing was despite running running running, she hit all her contacts beautifully tonight. I love it when she does a good job- it’s just such an obvious hit – 2 front feet, smack bank in the middle/lower third of the contact zone.

Still working on Loki’s RC. He did 2 hits from a close wrap start today that were AWESOME… and the next 3 were leaps. But at least we’re doing the whole thing so he’s getting to the contact zone with some speed. Now it’s just a matter of him continuing to run down rather than leaping off cos he’s going too fast.

Shape Up – musings, reflections, thoughts.

So we’re back from the weekend of learning stuff.

I sort of… don’t know how I feel about how it all went. Maybe I need to make some lists. Lists are good.

  • Lumen was great. Mostly. The first morning she was awful – she was so slow and disinterested I thought it was going to be a complete waste of my time. By the afternoon she’d perked right up and was running a bit slower than ‘at home’ speed. The next 2 days sort of fluctuated unpredictably between her being “on” and her being slow. By the afternoons she’d perk up and then crash, and there didn’t seem to be any consistency in when she would be happy or not based on what I did or didn’t do before a run, whether she had more or less time out of the crate.
  • I actually found a reward/toy that she really seemed to like – it’s a lotus ball that I put a piece of cooked sausage or something in, and she could tug it to open it up and eat the food. I want to focus at home with her on just playing with that ball, away from agility, to make it super awesome funtimes.
  • I really liked refining my handling and getting to play with cool moves like threadle-rears, German turns, reverse spins, etc. I was really enjoying those twisty courses and think it would be even more fun with a Loki.
  • It was cool to see what Lu could do even when I didn’t know she could do it cos we haven’t really trained it, at all. Like finding the hidden end of a tunnel, or calling past a bunch of tunnels without me really having to call her, she just didn’t worry about them. Which is Lu, I guess.
  • I learnt very quickly that the best thing to do for Lu was anything that would keep her in motion – for that reason we really, really like German Turns. 😉
  • There were no dogwalks, and because she hadn’t been weaving, they were ok for her to not weave, and there were 2 other 500-height dogs jumping at 300mm so I jumped Lu on 300mm too.

Ok… and then..

  • I have trouble in my brain finding the seminar valuable because although it was really fun to do 100 backsides and threadles and discriminations, I know that we’re never going to see courses like that here. Maybe not “never”, but not now anyway. We were thinking that maybe someone should bring UKI down here. Maybe I can do that. Y’know, with all the spare time I have. In the meantime we have these huge open big courses with stupid discriminations that you can’t handle cos you can’t get there… So it’s really nice that Lu can do a threadle-rear now but am I going to use it? Uh, not sure.
  • I felt a big conflict, in a way, between what I’d learnt during the OMD seminar and this one. In a way. Some of it was fine, like finding your dog’s line but there was certainly less emphasis on supporting, showing, and guiding that line. And more on “do this handling option here because we want you to” (which was us learning handling moves, that’s fine) or “Do this move here because it’s faster” rather than “How can I best show my dog where it’s going next ahead of time?” which is how I want to think. So I suppose in a way I need to take it all as more of a ‘training exercise’ rather than learning how to cue and decide the moves based on how it will best support showing my dog the line. I think there was some of this sort of discussion (As in, “Well, you COULD do this move on that bar, but then your dog would come all the way out here and it would be slower), but I felt also that they were ok with, say, running their dogs at a tunnel and using their ‘flappy tappy’ to stop them going in it and go over a jump instead, rather than giving the dogs confidence and speed by not letting their noses point at that tunnel (if possible) by doing some other move to help them. And I think for Lu, that confidence that yes, THAT is the way I want you to go, there are no questions, is something she needs. And I guess the more you trained ‘flappy tappy’ the less they’d have that question in their mind but I just… I don’t know – it didn’t sit so well with me to run at a tunnel (basically) but actually want them to come and do a jump next to it.

So… plenty to think about, but maybe not as much as the OMD seminar. I don’t want to compare the two, I know they’re different and maybe the focus was different, but I took pages and pages and pages of notes for OMD, and for this one, I drew 2 little diagrams of some setups I want to make at home.

I think now it’s time to sign up for OMD premium membership to start working through some of their exercises, turns and courses with Loki (and Lu), and building his Foundation skills using their method (and Shape Up as well, it can’t hurt to have more tools than less)… it’s time to keep working on their dogwalks (and we had a great session with Loki yesterday with a couple of leaps to differentiate between leaping and JPing), to work on proofing Lumen’s weaves and her entries. I’m thinking that maybe instead of teaching Lu the hard turns Silvia’s way, I might teach her a sort of 2o2o kind of thing which I read on Polona’s blog, as maybe that will be clearer for her – a STOP vs. a sort of run slower and turn type thing. And if I get a stop and a flick away then that will take care of those turns and she won’t have to question if it’s a collected stride & turn vs a run, it’ll either be RUN RUN or STOP in position. I think maybe that will be better.

… Maybe.

herding2

lu & the sheep

 

Something really interesting happened today. I took Lu to her breeder’s place for some herding training. She’s a school teacher by day as well, so we’re both on holidays and since my October weekends are booked out, I figured I’d best get some training in now.

So we walked into the paddock next to the sheep training paddock. Lu had her halti on. The whole way walking up to the fence with the sheep milling around, she was walking at my side, looking up at me, glancing at the sheep, back to me. We came to a stop, she sat, looked at me.

She was ASKING me to work. Please, she said, look how good and attentive I am, please may I work the sheep?

It was so lovely. She rarely asks like that in agility, but I received this message loud and clear.

During her turn, she did fantastically. She was calm and only got silly twice. She’s moving the sheep really well and turning her eye out like she’s supposed to. She’s easy and gets around when she’s meant to. She needs to build up her distance from the sheep cos she’s crowding them at the moment, but that’s what we’ll work on next I think. She hasn’t given up (her full litter sister quit the other day, making her breeder very unhappy!) and, when I ask her to come away from the sheep, she comes with me!! Which I’ve been practising by then setting her up in a sit and letting her have sheep again as a reward for coming off them. Since that first time the other week when I tried to finish her on the sheep about 15 times, she hasn’t made the wrong choice. I saw her still thinking about the sheep today as we finished, but she came with me anyway.

Everybody seems to think she’ll be a great and fun little herding dog. She loves herding. She whines and gets worked up and can’t stay still, but when she’s in there, she’s calm and focused and WORKING. So, y’know, maybe I’ll do some herding with her. Maybe it will make our bond as a team stronger, build our relationship in a different way (not a master/worker relationship but I think there has to be something pretty special between a shepherd and his dog working the flock – a kind of trust in the dog, and a trust in her handler. I don’t think she has that trust in me yet, so she’s always on alert, always watching out, making her own decisions in agility.).

Tomorrow a lady who owns Lumen’s full brother is coming to play agility a little bit, and will do some tracking with Lu and Loki. That’s another thing I think Lu will be great at and in fact, I have a whole empty paddock to train in! I just need to know HOW. Maybe she will be good at everything except agility, just to spite me!

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giving up, giving in

Today is one of those days that I just feel ready to throw in the towel with Lu and give up on doing agility with her. Seriously. Her RC was mediocre in terms of running speed, and everything else was very blah. Most times, I got to do one run of something and then have to say: “Ok!”, go get her, and tie her up, because she’d have wandered off of her own accord to go bark at the cows or sniff at the ground.

I’ve fallen out of the habit of doing focus games, Recallers Games and Let’s Play! games because life has revolved around moving, and rehabbing her leg. Now that she can train again, that’s all I want to do- I don’t want to do the other stuff. Obviously, given the responses I’ve been getting from her, I need to do those things more but at the same time, she hasn’t weaved for 2 months so that stuff is on my priority list, too.

 

And then I tie her up because she’s all “I don’t care for your shit”, and I get Loki and he tries. his. little. heart. out. Oh gosh it breaks my heart sometimes to see him trying so hard. One time he just wasn’t getting it, so I said: “Ok, let’s have a break!” and he’s all like: No, no, I’m sure I can do SOMETHING that you want! And goes out of his way to trundle through a tunnel. Nothing stops him. He lives for this game. You can not reward him a bunch of times and he just keeps going- getting more desperate each time, sure, but he doesn’t stop. He wouldn’t stopped until he dropped if he had his way. It’s terrifying, but it’s such a nice change from a dog who just doesn’t care.

Maybe today is just an off-day. Maybe I need to literally do ONE THING, and then tell her “session over!” and tie her up and even if I just walk circles and play tug with Loki (cos let’s face it, there’s only so much I should do with him), then she can watch that and then have another go. I don’t know. I still don’t have a currency for her. I thought I was onto something when I pulled out the hose after doing some RC and used it as a jackpot and then had to drag her off it she wanted it so bad, but she’s never been able to put 2 + 2 together. Eg. Do this little agility thing = get that cool reward you want. Her mindset has always been: Do that agility thing. End.

Get the cool thing for some random reason! Yay!

 

And so sometimes, over the last few days, I’ve just felt like maybe I shouldn’t bother. She loves competitions- she comes alive there, but how can I compete if I can’t train the dog that I’m competing with? I’m so paranoid now that one weave, one wrap and she’s going to be all broken again that I find myself OBSESSIVELY watching how she moves. Maybe she’s had an off day today, maybe she just hates training with me but enjoys competing. I’m not sure how to put the two together or how to just be ok with her when Loki is just such a star and so much easier.

 

We’re going herding tomorrow- Lu and Loki and Nic and I (and Mal but he’s not herding). Maybe it will be nice to have something different to play with for a morning.

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happiness

I’ve had a thought for a little while but haven’t said anything yet incase I was wrong, and I don’t like being wrong… But I don’t think I’m wrong.

Lu seems happier. Like, really really happy.

I started having her sleep in her crate at night, initially for my own sanity (you know how in the morning, just before your alarm goes off, you start to stir and roll over and stuff? She’d assume that meant you were awake and therefore needed to be either licked in the eyeball or pounced on for a joyful morning greeting. I didn’t necessarily appreciate this so much when it’s 5.30am on a weekend and I’m trying to tell my body to go back to sleep) but then I had her out one night a bit later and as I was falling asleep I felt her constantly jerk her head up to look around… settle down, look around, settle down, look around, get off the bed to go check to see if the cats were being naughty, pace around, lay down, get up, etc. She was constantly on alert. And I thought about how tired I would be if this was my state of being all night, and thought that surely the same must be true for dogs? You can’t be happy, enthusiastic, energetic, driven, of clear mind and willing to work if you’re just tired from a broken night’s sleep. So I’m crating her because in her crate she SLEEPS. She doesn’t even bark at the cats fighting unless they get particularly rowdy.

So there’s that. There’s all the recallers games we were playing before she wasn’t allowed to run around for a couple of weeks with her iliopsoas. There’s the expectation there that I am the only access to reinforcement in distracting situations… It’s amazing to see her now go: OOO RABBIT…. Ohhh… Ohh.. TREATS!!! Like how cool is that? The other day I tested her on kangaroos in a paddock (they weren’t moving, they were just there) but she lost her mind. Not quite there with the roos yet. But, getting there with soccer kids, and she could SMELL roos nearby (but didn’t see them, they blended in) on a walk the other day, and I had her walking with 100% focus at my side, looking up at me with her beautiful blue eyes, feet prancing along as they do. Gosh it was nice.

You know I used to say that she wasn’t a dog who got excited about things? Let me tell you a few things:

1. My arrival home now means an explosion of wiggling, jumping around, tail going crazy, nips and nibbles and a general tornado of Lumen happiness.

2. I was eating breakfast this morning in bed, and she starts going crazy – chasing her tail, yipping, pouncing around. It wasn’t her normal obnoxious “feed me or I pounce and bark at you” type behaviour, she just felt a bit silly and energetic. Very cute.

3. Before her dinner bowl (when she gets one) I get her to do a short bit of heeling as I figured it wouldn’t hurt her to train up for Rally-O while she couldn’t do agility. I put it up on a shelf but she knows it’s there. And she looses her brain. She barks and jumps around and can’t heel properly and can’t get into heel position and nips at me. And ok, this is all really BAD behaviour but I find it so, so funny, and can’t help but laugh because I’ve gone from a dog who didn’t care that much about food, to one who goes crazy at the prospect.

So I don’t know – maybe it’s a combination of: Lu actually sleeping, Lu being desexed and not having stupid hormones making her moody, and having to compete with Loki for attention (or not being the CENTER of attention, so being more ok to just ‘be’), but something is working, and I really like it. I love seeing her tail wagging and her eyes bright.