Gun Dog Foundations: Whistle Problems

Last week our Gun Dog Foundations 1 class began. We had a pretty busy weekend, so other than reading the lecture material and checking out the forums, I didn’t do any actual work.

I had Huib read the material and watch the videos before we started.

Once we get the clicker out, the dogs know something exciting is happening, so it’s kind of a pain to get them to go down into the living room, so we can work with them one at a time.

Arizona was first.

The first lesson talked about the importance of engagement, so I began our session playing with Arizona. She loved it!! She really enjoys interacting with me, so I think I will try and remember to incorporate this into our classes in the summer, where her distraction level rises.

Once she was fully engaged, I started to work on a ‘whistle-sit.’ I blew once on the whistle and quickly said “sit.” The minute she sat, Huib clicked and tossed a toy for her to chase and bring back to us. We did this a few times, until I no longer needed to say “sit.”

Arizona was beginning to learn this in the summer, but we never really did much work on it.

To take a bit of a break, we moved on to the ‘whistle-recall.’ Huib held her, I blew the whistle three times and said “here” in a very excited voice. Arizona ran over, I petted her and I dropped kibbles at my feet. We did this a couple times before I dropped the verbal cue all-together.

We use the whistle-recall a lot in field, so Arizona’s pretty good there.

Huib suggested we do some more sits, but try to get some distance. She kept coming really close, so Huib attached a leash to the staircase rail, so she wouldn’t be able to move. Starting a foot away, I blew the whistle once and said “sit.” She did nothing, so Huib finally lured her into position, clicked and rewarded her.

We continued to have similar issues, as well as problems with her going into a down. I stopped using the whistle and just worked on showing her she can sit while on a leash attached to something. It’s like she thought that being tethered to something meant she had to be in a down position.

Next it was Rogue’s turn.

I blew the whistle once and said “sit.” She just stood there. I tried again, but got the same result. Huib said it looked as though she was nervous. We think the whistle might hurt her ears and remind her too much of the smoke detector, which scares her.

I’m hoping she will be okay with the whistle outdoors, or I am not sure how we’ll do any field.

To get her back “in “the game,” I ran through Sue Ailsby’s level 1 behaviours. Rogue knows these well and loves ‘touch,’ so I think the exercise helped destress her.

Once she was back to herself, I did some distance work. I’d ask her to “sit” and quickly walk away while I did it. Huib clicked anytime she sat and I was at least a metre away, then I’d toss a treat for her. We did this several times and she steadily progressed.

Since I couldn’t do the whistle-recalls with her, I did some retrieve and ‘hold’ work with her using the bumper. The last class we took that used shaping to teach a retrieve, really helped because she has a nice quiet hold now. We just need to work on moving around with items and on getting them and passing them over.

I am hoping to do some work with the girls outdoors next time, so I can see if Rogue is okay with the whistle outside.

If anyone can suggest a substitute for the whistle, in order to also work indoors with Rogue, that would be awesome!!

Obedience with the Youngsters

It’s been a while, but we’ve finally returned to obedience class.

I would really like to try and earn the Pre-Novice Obedience (PCD) title this spring with Arizona.

If I can teach her consistent heeling and at least a one minute (30 seconds is actually required, but I’m thinking I should account for time needed to return and getting the leash back on) sit-stay, then we’ll be ready to trial.

Ari reliably performs a 25-second sit-stay at home. I need to extend this time, while also adding distractions and working outside the house.

As for heeling, it’s really a work-in-progress. She can do it when we’re at home, but add any sort of distraction in and she’s done.

From reading the CKC obedience rules, it looks like Arizona needs to earn three qualifying scores before she’ll get the PCD title.

Arizona absolutely LOVES Susie, so I didn’t expect great work. And, she didn’t let me down… She did her usual screeching and bouncing around, lol!! Once she’d efficiently greeted Susie, I took her into the training ring and began running through Sue Ailsby’s level 1 behaviours – sit, down, touch, ‘leave it.’ When we begin training sessions at home, I do this, and I think it helps to get her into “the game.”

Unfortunately, I’m not sure Susie was a big fan of the work we’ve been doing. Her biggest concern was with the way I tossed treats after clicking. For me, when I click, the behaviour is over and the dogs can go get their reward. I feel tossing the treat helps reset them because they have to come back and get into position again in order to receive a click/treat. Susie doesn’t want me tossing treats because she bellies it is not promoting a bond with me, and she thinks it will just encourage scavenging. I don’t agree with her assessment, but I will follow her request when we’re in her presence.

Susie and I use the clicker in similar, but different ways. When I click, the dogs know the behaviour is over, so they can move and go get their treat. For Susie, the click means you’re doing it right, but it doesn’t mean you’re done.

I’m going to stop using the clicker when I am with her, just using a verbal “good” or “yes” instead.

I want the dogs to continue seeing the click as an end to the behaviour and a time for reward.

I am leaving Canyon out of obedience classes for now. I need to work out some problems we’re having with the sit-stay.

Last week, we started our Sensational Stays class through the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy, so I’m really hoping his issues will iron themselves out.

Rogue is coming to class with Huib. I wanted to do obedience with her, but she gets confused when I ask her to heel because I also require her to ‘leash-guide’ from time-to-time. As a result, Huib has offered to work with her and together they will try for the PCD.

From listening to the comments he received in class, I think the first goal for him will be to develop a working relationship with her.

Once Rogue knows that she needs to pay attention to him, I think the rest of the requirements will fall into place quickly.

Rogue already knows how to work. She just needs to realize that I’m not the only one who might ask her to perform cues.

Thankfully our next class isn’t for about 10 days because we’ve got lots of work to do.

Final Week

This is the final week of our, Shaping a Competition Retrieve, class through the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy. Even though we have been working through the lessons regularly over the past six weeks, we still have a ways to go. I am glad we’ll have access to the course materials for at least a year.

Rogue has progressed from spitting out any object I give her, to calmly holding an obedience dumbbell for at least three seconds.

I will continue extending the amount of time before I mark the behaviour, while also beginning to apply a bit of pressure. By gently pulling on the dumbbell, gradually increasing the pressure, Rogue will learn to hold it firmly until I ask her to release.

Arizona has been retrieving a number of objects for over a year now, but her ’hold’ has greatly improved. She drops things less often and she’s begun to wait for the cue before releasing.

She is also learning some patience and problem solving skills. Shaping is a fun way to train because the dog has to think and you really get to see how their brain works.

Canyon can retrieve some objects, specifically toys, but he is not great about holding or releasing. He has not progressed as far as the girls in this class, but I think it’s partly because he’s not a great ‘shaping’ dog. If he can’t figure out what I want easily, then he gets frustrated and just lies down to wait for further directions.

I really have to think outside of the box with him.

The next session of Fenzi courses begins on February 1st. This time we are going to sign up for two classes: Gun Dog Foundations 1 and Sensational Stays.

Gun Dog Foundations will help us in field. I have always stood firm on wanting to use only positive methods, so this class is exactly what I have been looking for.

Sensational Stays will not only help us in obedience, but also in field because the dogs will learn that stays are fun, or at least I hope they will 🙂

I hope everyone is having a good 2017 so far.

Where Have we Been…

I know, I know, it has been a while since I last posted an entry. I really want to get back into regular blogging, but I am having trouble coming up with things to say.

My Web Wizard cannot seem to figure out how to fix the issue with me not being able to post pictures here, so I am going to try and use Instagram and share the link – it might take a bit though, the iPhone app is pretty confusing with a screen reader.

What’s been new with the ruled by paws crew?

As mentioned in my last entry, Rogue was attempted to earn her UTD (urban tracking dog) and TDX (tracking dog excellent) titles.

Unfortunately, 2016 was just not our year for tracking.

She did a really good job at her UTD test, but missed the first article – a knitted mitten. I saw some great work though. It was a pretty rough track and she wasn’t working in the most optimal conditions.

I’m not sure if I have mentioned it here before, but Rogue absolutely hates being wet. This makes it pretty difficult to work with her at times. She will do absolutely everything possible to avoid puddles, even stopping dead in her tracks, refusing to move until i force her to continue.

So, when we got to the test and it was not looking like the rain would stop before her turn, I took a deep breath and crossed my fingers.

We walked up to the ‘scent pad,’ I asked her to “Check it out.” She sniffed the area thoroughly, probably hoping for even a tiny treat. Then, when I felt she was pointed in the right direction, I said “Find.” She took off and we followed. The first half or so of her track was covered, I mean covered, in goose poop. I had to constantly ask her to “Leave it.” Despite the distraction, she followed her track quite well. There were a few spots where she had to work a bit harder to find the track, such as at corners, but I felt she did a good job overall. When we were nearing the last corner, the judge came up to us to say we were welcome to finish, but that she had missed the first article, so she would not be getting her title. We were sad, but we felt she needed to finish, so she would be able to feel as though she had done what I asked.

In early November, Arizona attempted to earn her TD, while Rogue tried for her TDX – neither were successful. When Arizona had her turn, she did the first 30 metres well, but then got distracted by the cow manure in the field. Even though Huib tried to refocus her, she continued to go back to the different piles she found, and even did some rolling. We are hoping with some time and maturity, she’ll be able to try again.

Rogue had a pretty tough track. Laura, our instructor, said the judge was a bit sad to see which track we were assigned. Rogue approached the scent pad, figured out which direction the track went, and then did about the first quarter to a third really well. She got stuck when we were supposed to turn into a field of corn stalks. The corn had been harvested, so the stalks were about ankle high. From her behaviour at that spot, I think she knew we had to turn, but felt it was too dangerous for me. If we had to fail, I’m glad to be able to say that we failed because she felt she had a guiding responsibility. I am going to work with her throughout the spring and summer to teach her that it is Huib’s responsibility to keep me safe when she is on the tracking line, and that she is only expected to follow the scent.

On November 17th I had my convocation. Huib went with Rogue and I. He walked with me in the procession with the other students, but when it was time for me to go up onto the stage and receive my degree, Huib walked me to the stairs and then ran to the other side to meet back up with us. Rogue did a great job of listening to my directions, so I think we probably looked pretty smooth walking across the stage together.

The rest of 2016 was pretty uneventful. I had a good birthday at the end of November and Christmas was quiet, but nice.

We had some friends and family come over on Boxing Day for dinner, but otherwise we didn’t do much.

Goals for 2017?

Most of my goals for this year surround the dogs and performance events.

I want to continue taking classes through Fenzi Dog Sports Academy. I took an obedience foundations class in October and right now we’re doing a competition retrieve class using shaping. I found the obedience class a bit lacking, but we’re enjoying the retrieve class.

I have tried to teach Rogue how to retrieve for a while, but this class has helped her progress further than I was ever able to do so on my own.

Arizona has been able to retrieve things for more than a year, but I find the class is tightening up her ‘hold,’ which will help us in field.

I also want to continue working through Sue Ailsby’s Levels Training Program. I have been casually doing them for a long time, but I never really started with Arizona.

In an effort to improve our obedience lessons with Susie, I decided to restart the Levels with Rogue and Canyon, while also working on them with Arizona. We have been doing short sessions, three times a week, for about two months now and I am seeing huge progress.

All three dogs are working on level 2. Each one is at a different point with the 14 different behaviours found in the level. Canyon tends to lag behind the girls a bit, while Arizona shines in some areas and Rogue in others. It has been a good experience for us all and I hope to continue this through the year.

Performance wise?

I want to enter Rogue in another TDX and UTD test. I also want to try field with her.

With Canyon, I would like to return to conformation, maybe even showing him myself. I would also like to do some tracking and enter an obedience trial with him.

I hope to continue doing field with Arizona, trying for both her WC and JH this year. I would have liked to also try for her WCI, but I need to make sure she has a really solid ‘stay.’ Arizona has progressed a lot in her levels work with me, so maybe we can try entering an obedience trial in the spring. Huib wants to track with her some more, maybe trying for her TD in the fall because the summer months are way too warm for her.

A personal goal?

I want to earn my PhD. The application is due in mid-February, so I’m going to start working on that this week.

To try and improve my chances of getting accepted to a PhD program, I am submitting abstracts to different conferences. So far, I have been accepted to present at the International Working dog Conference in April being held in Banff.

I also want to continue working on improving my physical health. I started walking on the treadmill three times a week, so I want to continue doing this, see how it goes and where it takes me.

The ruled by paws crew would like to wish our readers a safe and happy new year!!