Planning October

Review September:

CANIS foundations (19 different skills on rotation) – A few times each week.

Agility – Some lateral and forward sends, some very minor attempts at sequencing. For example wrapping a cone and then taking a jump. Autumn weather is not our favourite thing. I have a lovely little outtake vid of just what happens when the grass is wet…

TEAM – We made some progress on the fronts. If we have a paw target, he’s great. If not – the distance requirement eludes him. I have tried putting in both a paw target and a pair of cones as guidelines to the ‘coming from an angle’ part. I will have to remove the cones later, and so far we seem to be getting EITHER paws on platform OR straight in front – but not both. This is difficult.

Recallers – I am doing my best to avoid getting stuck on philosophical differences – in particular the difference between ‘push to failure to discover boundaries’ vs ‘errorless learning and setting up for success’. Susan Garrett leans a little more towards the former than I really like, and her use of the head halter to get the latter in some situations is… contentious in the R+ community (a head halter can put pressure on some rather sensitive areas of the dog’s face, and can be as dangerous to the neck as a collar – or more). By all means – she is definitely an R+ teacher (and the videos she is publishing about the setup of her puppy pen is jaw-dropping – I wish Fenris had had that kind of setup!!), but it is not quite the amount of + I’d like to see, sometimes.

That said – and given that I skip the bits I don’t want to use – we are getting some really good progress on reinforcement zone, with recalls to sides, heeling on both sides, and a positive ‘fallout’ of side-tap equals “come here”. Collar grabs are good, and we have started to work some off-leash in secluded areas. As long as the distractions are at most bird-song and distant trucks, he does very well. We haven’t really progressed to high level distractions yet, but the recalls are getting speedy at least.

I see some parts of the course also set up for Agility work – such as the ‘Cookie in the Corner’ game, which is helping us get some forward sends; mark, run off. (And then spin back around for a recall afterwards.)

Using the ‘search’ cue to reduce barking at every trigger known to man (and dog) is only marginally successful. Sometimes it seems it’s the sound of kibble hitting floor that he actually reacts to, rather than the verbal cue. Sometimes it takes him a while from the cue is given, until he decides to come inside for his food. Sometimes I have to say ‘search’ and put the kibble down on the fence 10 cm from his snoot to get a reaction. I know this is a threshold thing; if he is too far over, he literally cannot choose to respond to the cue, but it would have been nice with a little more success.

I am starting to test a different approach; the 1-2-3 pattern game by Leslie McDevitt (‘Control unleashed’ – based on positive choices, and using predictability to help the dog through difficult situations). Basically, back chain a prediction of ‘3-treat’, ‘2-3-treat’, ‘1-2-3-treat’, then start adding a little duration or distraction between the parts of the cue. I guess the words don’t really matter to the dog, it’s more about giving them a ‘heads up’ about what is coming, more than just a single search cue.

It probably still won’t help if he’s completely over threshold, but if he’s on the fence (figuratively, if not literally) it might be the extra seconds needed for the message to sink in and get processed.

He _is_ starting to drool already at ‘1’, so I’m guessing Pavlov rings a bell.

We have done two-three weeks of calming supplements with variable success, and I also finally got back to his therapist. She suggested anxiety meds, so apparantly it’s not right that this shit is taking so long.

Planning October:

TEAM 1 as a 6 week course at the Fenzi Academy – same place/ institution we trained agility before the summer. The course is an intro to all the team 1 exercises, with the acknowledgment that no-one will get through all of it in 6 weeks. We snagged a gold spot (though it took a few days to sell out, actually, so I might not have needed to be quite so eager), and the teacher recommends we pick a couple of skills each week to work on. I and Fenris will probably focus on the nose work and the fronts, as those are the most difficult bits, but we’ll send in some general vids as well, just to get a benchmark on where we are. I really like formal courses like these, to keep me focused. Just don’t tell anyone I was going to hold off on it this autumn, since we were doing Recallers, too…

This is probably going to take 90% of our focus. _Maybe_ I will get my posterior in gear and go to the agility practice on Wednesdays, but I’m not guaranteeing anything there. However, we have reapplied to the group obedience practice, which is every second Tuesday, starting 20th of October, which should at least get us some solid environmental practice. I will probably bring my TEAM work there, to solidify.

These are a few of our homework videos so far – around cone, various paw targets and backups / hind leg target. I am extremely happy with the personal feedback and explanations we are given, so I don’t really regret the expense.

Recallers; we can start to put Reinforcement Zone a little more on the backburner, and pick out a different focus. I genuinely want to set the family up with a game a day, to generalise his skills, but also go into Module 4 on my own now. High energy hand-targets, paying attention to me, faster sits during play, etc. Possibly also do a 30 in 30 challenge; one game each day.

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