Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Heeling Games

I have been participating in some online courses with Denise Fenzi's online Dog Sports Academy with Stella. I recently completed Heeling Games at an audit (silver) level.  I am really enjoying these courses and feel that they are helping me to figure out my training path.  I want to pursue positive training by building relationship and utilizing play and energy as that is my ideal perfect "picture" I hope to have someday in the ring.

I blogged in may about a trial that had not gone well.   I posted  "We need to start to build duration, reduce the reinforcement schedule and be a lot stronger about maintaining criteria.  I also need to figure out how to do all that while keeping things fun and reinforcing for both of us".   

Further reflection led me to believe I needed to adjust my expectations.  The connection and relationship is where I need to put my energy.  The precision fine tuning and reduced reinforcement schedule will need to come much later in this process.  This is a reply from Denise Fenzi to a frustrated session I had with Stella. "Play. A tiny bit of work. Play. Work. etc. If she can stay engaged and playful in public, then she can work. And you will find that is just as hard to get five minutes of continuous play as it is to get five minutes of continuous work. That's because they are both forms of engagement, and engagement (which excludes the environment) is a big deal".

That was a HUGE lightbulb moment for me and all of a sudden I just let stuff go and got back to enjoying working my dog.  Stella also finished her season which helped a lot and I have seen a wonderful, steady improvement in our working relationship over the past few months.  She has just turned two and we have lots of time ahead to enjoy our journey.  

Heeling games has been great for us.  We have always enjoyed playing together but now we have learned to use that play and movement to create energy and reduce pressure.  Various "games" help keep things fun and interesting.  We are creating joy for working together as well as developing muscle memory for that happy healing position.  The course describes heeling as "an intense, exciting dance between engaged partners requiring absolute concentration and energy to be performed well. When heeling is practiced as a series of specific behaviors – left turns, right turns, change of pace, etc, the dance is lost. This class will teach you how to practice heeling as a game – with the end result that your performance will be sharper, more interesting, and with much improved focus and endurance".

Here is a video I have done showing Stella and I working on some our our heeling games while camping last month.  Sorry the lighting is a bit dark but it was stinking hot so I had to wait until after the sun went down to do any work.

There are lots of great online courses being offered at the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy on a wide range of dog sports.  I am currently doing our first working spot in Ob-ility and also auditing the Ring Preparation course.  I feel these courses are a great compliment to training with my wonderful "real-life" instructor.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

A Lab and a Vizsla go Camping

We have just returned from a wonderful two week vacation of camping with the dogs.  We love to include the dogs in our travels and everyone enjoys it but I find it interesting how taking the dogs out of our normal daytime routine highlights the differences in their personalities.

Both dogs are pretty good travelers but it is odd that the two year old "high energy breed" is actually easier to travel with than the seven year old labrador.   Stella goes into the vehicle and basically just settles down and goes to sleep for the duration.  Riley usually needs a walk before a long driving time otherwise he is convinced that we are driving somewhere good to go for a walk.  Every time we slow down somewhere he gets all excited and is sure that the party is about to start.  We manage this but there are times that it can be frustrating to have a big black dog panting in my ear from the back seat.  Even days that he is walked if we drive for a long time he tends to get bored and restless. The dogs wear seatbelts so that helps keep everyone safe and under control.

Riley is a total pain in the the butt if he doesn't get a daily walk but we could skip a day of exercise with Stella if necessary and she would be fine.

Life in the campground usually highlights the princess factor for Stella.  She likes her "creature comforts" and opts to use the dog beds almost always compared to Riley who often prefers the dirt.  She gets cold easily as a single coat dog so loves the sunny spots, sleeps under the covers and often wears a light fleece in the evenings.   When the evening gets cool she makes it pretty clear that she would like to go in the trailer.  Riley is almost always warm so seeks out cool spots and likes the air conditioning.  In the vehicle I always aim the air conditioning vents all away from Stella and towards Riley.

We did lots of swimming on our trip and Stella is an amazingly efficient swimmer.   She easily speeds by Riley to steal the ball much to his dismay but gets chilled easily when swimming for long periods of time.  The lake at the final spot we camped was quite chilly so she opted mostly to splash in the shallows.  Riley is over the top intense when swimming for a ball but luckily there is never a conflict between the dogs and we always have an extra ball to throw so they each get to bring one back to shore.  Riley would swim for a ball until he fell over from exhaustion so we have to watch him to make sure he doesn't do to much.  We also have started to only throw the ball once he is standing deep enough into the lake to need to swim right away.  If we throw from shore he leaps through all the shallows and that tweaks his back and hips.

Both dogs are wonderfully sociable and are always happy to meet other people which is good in a busy campground.  Stella can sometimes be a bit barky at things when we are hanging out in the campsite.  She tends to be suspicious of people standing off alone.   Sometimes they want to bark at other dogs walking by but we always keep a bunch of treats and usually work "look at that" in those situations so now mostly they are conditioned to see other dogs and then look at us waiting for their rewards.

Camping is the perfect "family" activity for us and is the main reason we purchased our own little trailer.  It is much easier to bring our own house along on vacation then to find suitable dog friendly accommodations!

Hubby with the dogs

Stella stalking some ducks

Happy Girl

Can we swim yet?

Hiking the trail