Tuesday, 25 September 2012

CARO Rally Trial

Last weekend Stella and I participated in our first Canadian Association of Rally Obedience (CARO)  trial.   CARO is an option to CKC and trials are open to all dogs.  The judging requirements tend to be much stricter and there are time limits.  If a dog NQ on an individual station it will automatically NQ for the entire round.  Food is allowed but under strict guidelines (no luring!) and can only be used at the end of a stationery position.   There are some minor differences in the stations although not much at the novice level.  I find the advanced and beyond levels of CARO very interesting and think they would be a very good challenge compared to the advanced and excellent CKC rally.  A qualifying score in CARO is 170 out of a possible 200.  Unfortunately CARO trials are not very easy to find in our area but there are one or two per year that are within travel distance.

This was my very first time competing in CARO.  We entered in three novice trials and we did very well with three qualifying rounds.  The trials were all under the same judge so we weren't able to qualify for our novice title.  Trial one was a score of 197.   My pace should have been a touch faster to help prevent any sniffing opportunities but Stella did great!

Trial 2 was a score of 187.   We lost ten points on the sit, down, sit station because Stella did a "vizsla - don't want my belly to touch the ground" down.  I did notice that she hadn't gone all the way but from my angle it looked closer.   I should have done a re-do of the station.  When I viewed the video it was quite obvious and obviously the judge agreed :).   I probably should have asked for a down on the hip versus a sphinx drop down as that would have been more reliable.

Trial 3 was a score of 183.  In hindsight I should have only entered for two trials.   I was a little surprised when the judging schedule was released and the three novice rounds went one right after another.  I had expected more time for breaks in the schedule for the other levels to compete.  Stella is still very young (15 months) so by the third trial she was quite distracted.  This round had two stations with a down position which she wasn't thrilled with so we had two re-dos and one double command.   There was also a baby making some noises close to the ring gates which she found very distracting.

Overall I was very happy with our performance.  She had some beautiful positions in her fronts, sits at heel, left turns and pivots.  There was also some nice moments in heel work but that is a work in progress.  The trial showed me some areas I need to work.   I need to work on duration both in heel and holding positions before rewards.  I could see when watching the video moments when she seemed to expect rewards and then started to lose focus when she didn't get it.   I need to transition from working individual positions with rapid reinforcement to more incorporating those positions with other things and lengthening the reward schedule.  That should also improve with time and maturity.

The trial was in Nanaimo so we attended with our friend and her dog and went over the night before.  This was Stella's first experience in a hotel room complete with her first elevator ride.  She did hear something at 4 a.m. which needed her muffled barking from her cozy position underneath the covers on my bed but otherwise she handled things like a seasoned pro. 

Stella's aunt Shandy also completed a leg of her excellent title at this trial.  One of her cousins also had a very nice effort in Novice. Way to go to the relatives!   It it so nice to attend trials with friends and get/give friendly support.

Life With Riley & Stella has a page on facebook for anyone who is interested.  Please follow the link to like us Facebook - LifeWithRileyStella.

Here's my crazy puppy a year ago playing with her toy.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Recall back to basics

A few times over the last months hubby has complained to me that Stella didn't listen to him when he walked her.   I basically accused him of being to stingy with the treats but I don't think I really believed him.  In my head I thought she just wasn't reacting as quickly as she would with me if I called her.  I am the main dog walker in our home as I have a more flexible schedule but on days that I am busy he is happy to walk them and we often walk together on weekends.

Well ...... we were walking the dogs together last weekend and I got to witness that she really does ignore him.  The dogs went racing by us and he called her and she just kept going.  I called and she stopped dead and came right to me.  Hubby was not amused so I suggested we work on things a little bit.   I watched for a good opportunity and had him call the dogs.  When they came I watched and although he did have a yummy treat in hand he asked both dogs for a sit and waited until they were both seated before he gave the treat.   I gently suggested that perhaps he was confusing Stella and she wasn't understanding that the treat was reward for the recall.  By the time he actually gave her the cookie she thought it was just because she was sitting there.  I suggested that the second she got to him to give her the treat.  He walked the dogs a lot that week as I had a horrible cold and he was on holidays and commented by the end of the week that Stella was very much improved. 

Is this bribery or perhaps even a lure?  Good dog training or bad? I really don't care.  This is an easy fix that my husband is comfortable with.  It is important for safety that the dogs have a good recall so I am more than willing to pay them for that.  My husband is like most people.  He loves the dogs but he doesn't care about perfect heel position or if a sit is crooked.  He wants a well behaved pet that comes magically trained and so far that is working out pretty well for both husband and dogs :o).

Riley update .... We have an appointment coming up to meet the veterinary surgeon and have Riley assessed for hip replacement surgery.  It will be good to have a plan one way or the other. 

We were supposed to have gone to Tofino last week before parking the trailer for the season but opted to be work and fiscally responsible instead.  Here are a few pics from last year.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

One year later

September 13 is the one year anniversary of my first blog post.   It has been a fun year of sharing my life with these two amazing dogs.  This year really opened up my interest in training methods and dog sports.  I had started on that path with Riley and the addition of puppy Stella made things much clearer to me about the way I want to proceed with fun, positive training techniques.   This year my wonderful trainer Heather Lawson, CPDT-KSA, KPA-CTP took me to my first clicker expo which I found very inspirational.  I also got to see some great training seminars this year.

Riley's training and trialing has been on hold since early June while we wait for the decision about doing hip replacement surgery.  The surgeon we want has been away and is due back in September.  If she is unable to return then I will be moving on to another recommendation as I am defering a bunch of financial decisions until I know what will happen.  We have worked out a new "normal" for him to keep him active but he is mostly on leash and we keep the crazy stuff under control.  He does overdo now and then and is sore for a few days but we are managing with pain medications and supplements.

Stella is a happy, bouncy girl and has been a joy to work and train in her first year.  She is a much softer dog than Riley and doesn't handle frustration (hers or mine) well which has been a good learning experience for me.   I have come a long way with my skills the last few years but I am still a novice.  Dogs have a way of reminding us just how long this journey really is and how much more there is to know.   I am very pleased with Stella's progress and am thrilled to have already completed her Rally Novice title, CGN and her CKC Pre-Novice.  Next week we will be attempting a few rounds of Caro Novice Rally which seems quite a bit tougher than the CKC standards.

We have had lots of fun non-training time together this past year and labour day weekend marked the anniversary of Stella's first camping trip with us.  We once again headed back up to Summerland to camp and visit with family in the area.   There is a fabulous dog beach there where the dogs get to romp and swim.  We discovered that Stella can now swim faster than Riley which he was definately not thrilled with and screamed about the whole time he chased her in the water.  He can beat her with long leaps during takeoff but once they swim she is much faster and efficient in the water.  Lucky for him she is not super ball focused and is happy to give up her treasures.   We ended up distracting her away from him with a throw in the other direction so he wouldn't push himself to hard trying to beat her.  The two dogs get along better than I could ever have hoped for and it makes me happy to see them enjoying each other.

I look forward to another year of dog adventures and hopefully will have some interesting blog posts along the way.  I want to send a big thanks to my wonderful husband who happily indulges my "hobby" and my sometimes over-the-top care of the animals.  I also want to thank my trainer Heather Lawson for opening new doors to me and for being a friend at all the trials and seminars this past year.  Lastly a big thanks to Stella's breeder Sylvia Dorosh (Varazs Vizslas) for my beautiful girl.

I have also set up a Life With Riley & Stella page on facebook for anyone who is interested.  Please follow the link to like us Facebook - LifeWithRileyStellla.

Here are some pictures of last years labour day weekend trip to Summerland when Stella was approx three months old.


Thursday, 6 September 2012

Denise Fenzi Seminar

I recently attended a seminar with Denise Fenzi on Drives and Motivations.  I stumbled on Denise’s name about a year ago and then it popped up on a few blogs that I enjoy reading plus she started her own blog where she talks about raising her own puppy. I really enjoy her style of training as she advocates relationship and play with our dogs.

The focus of the seminar was on various types of drives (hunt, prey, food, pack) and how they can affect training decisions, play methods and the overall needs of our dogs. This blog does an excellent job of summarizing the same seminar for anyone interested in the specifics (drives, tugging, relationship, working) so I will just blog about the moments that “clicked” for me.

A friend and I were recently discussing the science of dog training and she made mention to me that “science is good, but putting theory into practice is an art”.  I believe Denise excels in that.  She was able to assess each working team quickly and provide information that will work with that dog.  She gives dogs a lot of credit for figuring things out and believes we often under challenge our dogs. 

When it was our one-on-one time I asked for some help with heeling.  I taught the initial heel position with a target stick and had achieved some good position but need to progress that for duration and different heel exercises.  I had been concentrating more on getting a series of steps from start in a line but felt I was losing her attention.  Denise had me heel around with her for a bit and then told me she couldn’t tell by my body language what my dog was doing.  I was basically doing the same motions if she was with me or if she was distracted.  She recommended that as soon as I start to lose her attention I remove the opportunity for Stella to be in position.  I do that by moving out of heel position towards her tail which redirects her attention back to me.  Most dogs don’t like when we stand behind them so will shift to face us and will follow if you move backward.  Once I had her focus back I could then pivot back into heel position and praise and reward for correct position.  This exercise seemed to work very well with Stella and I look forward to working this more as well as doing some video to see what I am doing.

I also need to be aware of direction with Stella and move more to the right.  I tend to want to correct position by moving to the left (into the dog) but that puts way more pressure on the dog and going right removes the pressure and will help her to drive into position.  Denise also rarely heels in a straight line while training and uses lots of twists, turns, circles etc. to make it more interesting for the dog.    A dog that forges in training would use more left turns and/or backup steps to correct.

Denise is a big fan of making sure the dogs understand the link between their behaviour and a reward.  She does this partially by sharing “missed opportunity” with the dog.    When the dog knows a behaviour but makes an error she will show the reward and communicate “too bad, so sad” that the dog has missed the opportunity, put the cookie away and then try again.  If the dog repeatedly fails then there is a training problem and the dog does not understand the behaviour. 

She took that “missed opportunity” thing a bit further when answering some questions.  A dog that doesn’t want to go in the crate gets a handful of yummy food thrown into the crate and the door closed so the dog can’t go in after it.   A dog that downs during a sit stay has the “judge” go along and feed the other sitting dogs and the empty space where that dog’s head should have been.  A dog that breaks the stay is held by the ring steward while the owner comes back and has a reward party where the dog should have been.    It sounds strange but if it works what the heck!  Stella has been going through a strange phase being reluctant to go in her crate.  I have just waited her out with the cookies in my hand until she gives up and goes in and then feeding her.  After the seminar I tried throwing the treats in and closing the crate, then left to brush my teeth while she waited to be let in for the treats.  Within two nights she was back to her normal crate routine. 

Denise also believes ring preparation routines and an on/off position while training our dogs.  Her thinking was very similar to the Michele Pouliot seminar that I recently attended.  Dogs should be put into a down stay while we speak with our trainers or prep for the next exercise.  In a trial situation she has specific routines for each dog to prep for the ring.  She says at that stage it is not about drilling the dog as you should know what to do by then.  Instead she wants to connect with the dog with some easy, quiet games.  She also has a position called “squish” where the dog stands across her legs against her body and it knows that position is just to relax and look around (take a break).  She then has a set step sequence out of that that has been heavily rewarded and it reorients the dog into a working position.

Another thing I found quite interesting was Denise’s use of praise and silence.   She believes in vocally encouraging the dog as it is working to give feedback to the dog and then going silent as the dog achieves what you want.   She then rewards with play or praise after a short silent moment.  She makes sure there is a difference in tone between encouraging and the reward praise.  This conditions our dogs that silence is an indicator of success and good things so that when we get into the ring they don’t freak out that we are all of a sudden silent and serious.

Other odds and ends include creating a love for things you can take in the ring.  First on the list is you but it can be useful to have a dog that loves a dumbbell, glove and articles.  It is important to have a solid trained retrieve first to prevent the dog from incorrectly picking up the item.  We can create a love for these items by playing hide n seek games with them and using them as rewards.  Then when these items are used in obedience trials the dog has good associations and believes it is being rewarded.  This would probably work well with Stella but Riley’s personality would likely have him obsessing on those items and distracted.

I really enjoyed this seminar and was pleased with Stella’s performance in the various exercises we did.  She is young and I am a novice so it is wonderful to get information to try and head off some bad habits.  Denise has an excellent blog  and youtube channel for anyone looking for more information.