Friday, April 30, 2010

Tennis ball time

I am admittedly inconsistent about keeping my dogs fit. I haven't taken them for walks or runs down our rural road in quite a long time. I've been really sick for over a week, which means I haven't had the energy to train. But I have had enough to run them with our trusty Chuck-It tennis ball thrower. I didn't have the Chuck-it recently, and I was embarrassed at how short my throws were without it.

As we headed out to the large fenced field (we still call it the agility yard in my family) on the front of our 4 acres to give them a run this morning, I started musing about the rules of The Game. First of all, I'd better have at least 3 balls along, or it just won't work. Ty is a tennis ball hog - if possible, she gets two of them and plays keep away with them. Then Gryffin stands there and barks loudly and uselessly. She does not take pity on him. Often, as Gryff races off in pursuit of a ball, Ty pursues him while still carrying her two. Sometimes, she drops them both and wants me to chuck them. She's remarkably adept at grabbing one ball in her mouth and then capturing a second with her front paws, and then gathering it into her mouth somehow. She's often just as happy racing big circles as persuing a Chucked ball.

My goal is to get out the agility yard to start The Game with as little barking and fussing as possible. Gryffin and Java are the noisy ones, and they wind each other to ever higher levels of noise. Not something I cope with gracefully. It helps if I can get the black dogs out the door before the terriers catch on.

Gryff and Ty returning...

Bologna Tongue is what we call this look.

Ty with her pair of balls.

The terriers mostly just run around, sniffing good smells, eating grass, and peeing on stuff. Sometimes, Java will steal a ball or chase and bark, but mostly, these days, he sniffs. Joker sometimes stalks the Flat-Coats - stares and I supposed points them. He jumps at them as the sprint past after a ball. It never appears that they notice his subtle attacks. He often gets sent flying. Why does he keep doing it? It's just part of The Game.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Wisconsin Seminar

You can ignore this: QGT45ZZTXWQ7 It's there to let Technorati know I am the author of this blog.

I spent this past weekend in Menomenee Falls, Wisconsin, presenting my Balancing Act seminar for the K9 Obedience Training Club of Menomenee Falls. There were a record number of terriers in attendance - nine counting Joker, who went along with me and the Flat-Coats to demonstrate. There were Borders, a Cairn, a Scottie, an Australian, and a terrier mix. I do love the terriers :-).

We started Saturday with a brief overview of my training philosophy, then jumped into playing Karen Pryor's Training Game to get trainers to practice their shaping skills.

The rest of the morning was spent reviewing attention and position changes, which led to an explanation of how I advance the beginning down work into the open drop on recall exercise, with floor time for all of the different exercises.

After lunch, we jumped into heel position maneuvers, a few of my other foundation exercises, beginning heeling (Find Heel and Rhythm Heeling), then closed out the afternoon with retrieving work, including how to get started with shaping the dumbbell and some problem solving.

Something I've done for years is to have participants vote on what we should work on on Sunday. As we are finishing up Saturday, I pass around a list of possible Sunday exercises. Working spot people get 5 votes and auditors get 3. The exercises are ranked, from the most votes to the least, and we work our way through as many as we can on Sunday. This makes every seminar I do a bit different, and helps to customize the work to the audience. I don't attempt to cover everything. I would rather spend in-depth time on what the group considers important. Interestingly enough, I rarely talk about the broad jump or directed retrieve.

Sunday morning started with work on dumbbell holds, including proofing for more advanced dogs. Next, I demoed the many different exercises I used to progressively teach fronts, with floor time for everyone.

Go-outs are typically high on the list of popular topics for Sunday. I asked the group to say how they have taught go-outs and there were about 10 different methods mentioned, which just goes to show you: there is no one perfect way. I described and demoed the 3 components I use to teach go-outs - the mark, target touch for the go-out portion, and a cookie-toss sit for the sit at the end. Then participants came out to practice.

After lunch, we had a discussion on ring stress, with some group exercises I like to do to help alleviate some ring stress. One is my Numbers Set-up game and the second is an Enter the Ring game. Then we talked about Scent Discrimination and finished up the afternoon with work on the Signal Exercise.

The weekend was a lot of fun and I received many appreciative comments. I continue to be grateful that I get to spend my weekends teaching something I love. What could be better than that?