Wednesday, January 4, 2012

My plan

I get all sorts of advice, like pick a trick and stick with it. Make him happy, keep him focused, try heeling out to the line, etc. I watch my videos and see he isn’t connected and wanders away, distracted, even on leash, he’s not connected. I work hard at keeping that connection.

Howeverrrrrrrrrrr………….THAT is stressing us out. I am stressed about the lack of connection from the minute we enter the ring to removing his leash. ACK!!! So, I have thought and thought and thought about it. I need to LET GO of that stress. I want to just walk out there, relaxed and not worry about what he is thinking, doing or our fucking “connection”. I need to let that GO! And I think I can do that. Just let it GO and not worry about it until it’s time to take off the leash. Then I connect.

Here is my plan – I need something I can practice at home. Something set, solid and repetitive and something I can build on. He needs to have a pattern. Something he can count on happening every time we step to the line. So, holding him I can count on a connection. It forces him to stay with me, connected. He doesn’t much like it, but I am hoping I can train him to get good at it in the very same way people train dogs to sit stay even when they don’t like it and just want to GO. I tried it today. -

What does he like to train most? His DW. He can’t wait to go train his DW. So, I set up a straight tunnel parallel to his DW. I got his ball and his treats. Just like I would when training the DW and he was pretty pumped. I got him to “the line” as if to start in front of the tunnel and put one hand under his belly and another at his chest, holding him and said “ready, ready….”, and in a moment I was quiet and still, and his ears popped up and I said GO and tossed his ball after the tunnel. He bolted after it, through the tunnel, grabbed it and brought it back to me for his treats, just like we do training his DW. He was happy, happy, happy. I did it again. He avoided me, cringing a little even, not wanting to be held, but I insisted and again…..”ready, ready…..” and then a moment of quiet and the ears went up and again….”GO” and tossed the ball after the tunnel. I then added a jump and did the same thing. He isn’t that happy about being held, but I get him to focus forward, ears up and repeat the performance. I think in time he will be fine with being held as it means he can play that wicked fun game!!!

What’s cool about it is he IS practicing something stressful, even though it is at home and not a trail. (All the other things I tried he would do happily at home, but at a trial the behavior would slowly erode.) I can practice something that is hard for him and he works through it and gets to play. Holding him like that is “stressful”, but then he gets rewarded by his ball after the tunnel. It is something I can practice a lot because he is having fun, he’s learning a pattern of behavior and hopefully conditioning a response to bolt off the start line even when there is some stress. Will it work? I don’t know, but so far everything I have tried has not worked and just erodes as times goes by. I have worked on holding him and releasing to a tossed ball or treats and such plenty, but not exactly the same way as this with the tunnel to ball, which is a favorite activity.

Eventually, I can add more difficulty, like demotivating starts with pin wheels or back sides or threadles, all hard things that we are seeing more and more of that bum him out at the start. Because I can add the tunnel and ball after as reward I think I can get him bolting off the start, practicing those sucky, twisty, turny, demovitating starts at home. And holding him can become rewarding because he then gets to do his tunnel to ball, every single time and back chain the jumps before it.

My goal would be to walk to the line with him on leash and LET him sniff and wander mentally, checking out the ring, the ring crew, whateverrrrrrrr!!! Of course, I wouldn’t let him go up to the ring crew, but I would not insist on total focus on ME. That relieves ME of the whole pattern of “MUST HAVE CONNECTION ALL THE WAY TO THE LINE” shit/stress. Then I remove the leash and do our PRACTICED start. We’ll see. I have tried so many different things that so many different people suggest and all of them slowly erode with time. And the whole thing about must have focus and complete attention all the way to the line is freaking me out and he knows it and it’s just a snow ball becoming an avalanche. LOL!!! NOT working for us! :P

Silvia trained her RDW with Bu using tunnels as reward. I think of so many people who think if you do that you get a tunnel sucker. Not if you train the dog that they need to do something else first, THEN they get the tunnel, right.

I tried it at class last night and it worked fine. He's extra high at class, though. I have to remember to say my "ready, ready" and pause, then "GO". I forgot the first time. I do think he needs that clear, set pattern of behavior before the start because often now I just drop the leash and go and it's a little variable for him.

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