Friday, August 12, 2011

Just an odd night of training

I dubbed last night's training session "Discrimination Night." As I mentioned in a previous post, one of the things I am most concerned about with regard to attending Champs with Secret is the number of discriminations from behind a distance line. It is my goal to improve in this area in the next couple of months -- and obviously to do this, we must train discriminations and gradually increase the distance from which I handle them.

The above drawing is an example of what I had set last night. I made it about as friendly as possible, using a wide sweeping arc that more or less pointed straight into the tunnel under the dog walk. The more difficult handling maneuver in this case seemed to be a pull to go up the dog walk. I thought it was a good set-up to start building some distance for Secret's "out" command.

What actually went down was just odd. I brought out her Jolly Ball from the get-go, figuring I wanted her jazzed & spazzy to increase our odds of success. On the first attempt I more or less ran with her as I have been at trials, going with her to the discrimination and making the choice very obvious. Happy dog!

Over the next couple of attempts I began to gradually increase my distance. As a result (and as is to be expected with a baby dog), Secret chose the dog walk a few times. My correction was not harsh -- I just used my standard, "Whoops! Try again!" But right in front of my eyes I saw her quickly begin to shut down on me.

As we went to restart the exercise, it quickly became obvious that she did not want to be anywhere near the "bad" spot of the dog walk or tunnel. She would become anxious and submissive as she got closer. It morphed to her taking the tire and then immediately laying down before the hoop, time and time again.

Assuming her brain was fried, I put her back in the house while I ran the boys through the exercise. When I brought Secret back out, I grabbed her Wubba, since it's been her go-to toy lately. We started the exercise using jumps not in my silly little drawing -- It was leftovers from our course the other night, a jump to the serpentine wrapping into my little arc before the discrimination. She got through the serpentine and did a nice (slow....) rear cross into the tire -- Then she would lay down. What??

She had no interest in her toy. I haven't had to use food with her for a very long time, but I went and grabbed Kaiser's treat bag from the garage. She perked up when she saw it and I started back at the serpentine again. Happy Secret! Until we got past the tire and she shut down on me again.

I literally had to stand over by the dog walk and coax her over with food. Once I got her over there she popped into shaping mode and started to offer her two-on/two-off on the dog walk repeatedly. When I tried to get her into the tunnel, she would go on the dog walk and bark at me. When I finally got her through the tunnel, it was slow and hesitant, but thankfully she began to improve at that point.

Her reaction even at this stage was weird, though. As we progressed, she still didn't seem entirely sure of herself and was doubting her decisions. When I would cue "out tunnel" it was like she decided to just close her eyes and bullet through the tunnel as fast as possible because she just wanted to get it over with. That said, she was bright and happy upon exiting the tunnel and was happy to get her treats.

When I switched it up and asked for "up walk" you could again see hesitation in her eyes, but upon hearing my, "yes! Good!" she relaxed and completed the dog walk nicely.

The bottom line is that we finished on a high note, but I'm just so perplexed by how quickly she shut down on me last night. This is a dog who has been trained to work through things, not just give up like that. I wish I understood why she felt so over-faced. We obviously need to continue our discrimination training, but I think I'm going to have to be careful in our progression and make sure I set her up to succeed.

I had a couple of friends say that maybe I can blame the full moon (apparently it is near?). Because in addition to Secret's wonky night of training, Kaiser had his worst running dog walk session to date. Instead of missing only one or two, he only got one or two and jumped the rest. Sigh. I think I've been running him too hard and he needs a break. It was a pretty discouraging night in general, aside from Luke being completely amazing in his distance discrimination work. :o)

We went on another walk last night (I'm really trying to improve my own conditioning prior to Champs!!!) and Secret was being naughty. I had her martingale collar on and ended up putting her in "the basket" for the majority of our walk to keep her from pulling so badly. If there is one thing I'm glad I picked up from the shelter, it's the basket. Instant no-pull harness at your fingertips. It settled her nicely. Why she decided to suddenly have no manners is beyond me -- Maybe it is the full moon!


  1. I'm by no means an expert, but I think that discriminations are easier when the dogwalk and tunnel are farther apart (less for the baby dogs to think about). Maybe you could start with this and move them closer to build confidence? Like I said just a fleeting thought from a novice handler ;)

  2. It's a thought. I didn't have the tunnel snugged right up against the dog walk, but I certainly had room to move it out more. Perhaps in my head I was just thinking that moving the tunnel out further would only move to increase the distance at which I was attempting to send, but you are correct that the picture would be more clear for her if they were further apart.

    Distance has always been hard on Secret -- It doesn't come naturally for her like it did with the boys (Kaiser doesn't want me anywhere near him!). I think the combination of me expecting a little more independence from her at the same time as throwing a discrimination at her was just too much. She doesn't struggle with discrimination questions when I handle her closely, which is what leads me to this theory.

    So we'll keep plugging away, but perhaps next time I will move the tunnel further away from the contact! :o) I figure I'll switch to the a-frame next time as well. I used the dog walk this time because I already had the tunnel next to it for Kaiser's running contact training. Maybe that change will help as well.

    Either way, though, the girl has to learn an "out." lol

  3. Good luck, that's a challenge for sure! I can't wait to see how it goes!