We all know that old joke about not being able to walk and chew gum at the same time. Well the dog sport version of that is can we walk and provide the proper body cues when needed? In class this week my instructor had us working directional obedience moves such as left turn, right turn and about turn. She also pulled out the dreaded metronome to experiment with pace and consistancy. Stella works well with a nice brisk pace which doesn't come very naturally for me and is even harder when we incorporate direction changes. I need to provide clear body signals for Stella about what is going to happen so that I don't leave her behind or disconnect with abrupt movements. It makes me laugh at myself and perhaps gives me a bit of frustration to realize how darn hard that is. I've been walking for a lot of years but it is gonna take practice to naturally do the nice smooth movements I want. In this instance I'm gonna need to learn more than my dog I think!
We have been working a little on our heel work and things feel like they are starting to come along nicely. I've been trying to incorporate lots of fun and play to create good value for heeling. I recently discovered that one of her favourite play moves is when I walk along with her and then pretend to stalk her. She loves that game so I am experimenting with playing and then quick easy transitions from that position into short sessions of heeling. I am also trying to use food less and be smarter with how I deliver it. Spitting the food for her to catch is a fun game for her so gives us a double reward (food and chase). It is helping to get the focus from what my hands might be doing and up to my face. Riley didn't have good food catch coordination so that wasn't an effective tool for us but seems useful with Stella. The downside is that I have a horrible gag reflex so I need to make sure it is stuff that I am comfortable having in my mouth. That means expensive salami and cheese instead of cheap hot dogs or other training treats but at least I can snack if I get hungry :o).