Thursday, May 26, 2011

Tuesday Training

Starting this week we joined some friends for a bit of training. We started out with some nose work. I have to say, having just introduced Leo to birch recently, he is taking to it really well. He's a great little worker; the more we try the more I realize that. For a non-working breed, it's refreshing; for a toy breed, it's a delight. For his first search he had five hides. We had scattered a few boxes around the center of the floor. The setting was an open area of a large outbuilding, concrete floor, roll up door was up, little to no breeze, the weather was cool but dry, plenty of dust, dog smells, a gurgling fish tank, and many objects including kennels, boxes, trophies, tables, equipment, tools, a four wheeler/quad, utility trailer, and more. There were plenty of hiding spots both low and high, contained and open, with plenty of potential for odor to drift and/or pool in place. I don't recall the places we hid the items, but we did increase the difficulty level from last time. I know I repeated the command, "find it," a couple of times during our first search, but Leo responded quickly to each reminder. He searched thoroughly when he caught odor and began to detail surrounding areas.

The only difficulty he had was on the angled table brace under a table. It was over his head and there was no real way for him to step up to reach it. He seemed to really know he was in odor multiple times and came and went from the table repeatedly, finally standing under it but just couldn't seem to stand up and tell me exactly where he was finding odor. Last time Leo seemed to know the odor was "up" but didn't know he could step up or put his feet on things to gain ground and find the item. I encouraged him, per Pam's suggestion, and this time he seemed to remember that. He gladly put his feet up where he needed to. For instance, there was a large, heavy duty wagon with it's "tail gate" down that he stepped up against.

The other intriguing moment in our nose work practice was when he was searching around the wagon and happened to knock the paired treat off the tin with the odor. He kept searching, not noticing he knocked the treat off, and I fully expected him to drop to the ground and alert on the treat. Instead, that little stinker alerted fully on the now unpaired birch! Go Leo! I was so proud of him. It was a totally awesome moment.

Leo got to do two searches, both inside. He was very impatient in between his turns for quite a while but eventually settled down to wait and watch out in the drive.

After nose work we went in the arena for a bit to do some agility. I worked him on the jumps and just random equipment I could direct him to. He was super excited to work and willing to take anything I asked. He even did the double-jump for the first time and I'm excited to see him really clearing the jumps with ease. His jump style is really nice - smooth, efficient, and he gauges where to start his jump well so his landing is clear. I'm quite certain his dropping a bar will be an extreme rarity, if at all.

Vegas had a turn for a bit then I brought him back in to really work the teeter. Since this is a different barn from where we have been taking classes, I wanted to work him on this teeter to gain additional exposure, experience, and confidence. I'm glad to say he very willingly boarded the teeter every time. His speed varied as did his continuance on the board. A time or two he began to back down the board and or try to turn around when the board tipped, but I encouraged him back to move forward and he did so. All said and done we had no less success than we have had at the other barn and the largest benefit being practice on another teeter.

We then worked on some recalls, specifically the "call to front." I'm struggling with bringing Leo in close enough without a two part move. One of the tips Laurie gave us was to put your feet shoulder width apart and recall and, as the dog approaches, toss the treat between your legs. I did that quite a few times alternating with a regular call to front. There were two benefits to this training session. First, Leo was really holding his sits! I don't recall him slipping into a down a single time. Yahoo! Huge accomplishment. Second, we were working that close front position as well as an enthusiastic recall, both of which we were getting with some level of consistency.

It was a great evening of training where we accomplished a lot with a lot of variety and enjoyed each other's company. Then last night he got a bath almost right away after work. Somebody was starting to smell just a bit more like a dog than I prefer. Plus his fuzzy leg hair was starting to get a bit sticky feeling from the variety of surfaces we've been on and he's been in lately. I am starting to feel like I need a much deeper tub. I have tried to get Leo to swim while in the tub when the water level is high but he tends to stand at the edge of the tub on the curve so he doesn't have to swim. I took some pictures and a smidge of video I'll have to post tomorrow or this weekend. He's nice and clean, smells fantastic, and I got him all trimmed up and fresh again.

Coming up this weekend he's going to get to participate in a fun match for the first time Saturday. I have just one goal for us aside from fun working together - trial like experience. I hope we have a good turnout so that he is able to work in a ring by himself with plenty of people and dogs in the vicinity that will allow us to tune into each other. More news on that then... Happy Memorial Day weekend!

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