Wednesday, November 30, 2011

This is a stick-up!

We worked more on Psyche's newest task tonight.. I think I'm going to call it "Stick up!" so I can sing to her the song of my people (Okay, I'm tried, can you tell?) with a "this is a stick-up and no I didn't hickup or stutter it's like butter y'all go and put your hands up." Or I'll call it hands up.

Anyway! It's just her going from a sit to balancing on her bum with both paws off the ground, preferably held up HIGH.

Last night we left off with a little rocking. She was picking one paw up, then the other, and only bringing the second foot up a tiny bit, but I rewarded high. Tonight she started by straight up offering a full both paws off, flung up high on the first try. Jackpot.

So we worked more on that and she did have a few stalls but I just waited her out and she figured out. There was some sniffing the floor so a little bit of stress, but that only happened a couple of times. Uh-oh. Time to find a new trick, she's not failing often enough!

This trick is going to be adorable. My dog is adorable.

Also, on a non-Psyche related note, I taught Crash "Saaad" the other day, so now on the command "are you saaad, Crashee/are you saaad, Psychee?" both of the twins will drop their heads to the floor and stare up at me. Crash's still needs a little work, but once I get it so the verbal is solid there will be twin-sadness pictures/video.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

It's okay to get it wrong.

I'm on another crazy streak. Paired with the threshold work I've been doing with Psyche, I'd like to start teaching her that it's okay to "fail".

Of course she never gets a "OH NO, bad bad dog. You did it wrong! Bad!" and she sure as heck never gets a "haha, loser, you did it wrong", but Psyche is a really soft dog and she really lacks confidence. So I got to reading and researching today and started thinking, well maybe if I teach her that failing is okay then she'll get a little more confident, and maybe that will help with her agility issues, and if not, well heck, it'll teach her lots of tricks.

So we're starting a Shaping Challenge. I haven't yet decided the rules of that shaping challenge for myself and Psyche, but we're going to start with doing some perch work... or at least try to.

I'll keep y'all updated on how it goes. This dog loves shaping, but I only ever do it when I want her to learn how to DO something... now I want her to learn how to accept when she didn't do it.

The after thoughts: So I started to work on some perch work with her and because I've done other work with a similar prop (we've worked on putting her face and paws on a "podium" and adding her "sad" trick on top of that) she was really struggling and I was too, so I decided to try something completely new. And I'll be honest, I had no idea what it was going to be when I decided to start working on it.

The "perch work" we tried was really good for her. Because I was asking for something new, and because she already had an idea of what she wanted to offer there were lots of times she'd try everything we'd already done on this similar prop and then just sit there and think "well, now what...?" and I just waited her out. It used to be that I would "start over" from there. If she came to a stand still I'd help her along a little bit. Today I just waited until she decided to try something new. I realized that before if she was 'failing' I was right away saying "oh, that's okay, let's try again!" Now I always knew my shaping had a little luring mixed in *tisk tisk* but I didn't realize how much until tonight. Wow. So I waited her out tonight. I just waited. And it was good for me, if nothing else.

I then moved her onto a new trick all together. She likes using her paws, so I decided we'd do a new "paw based" trick, I just didn't know what... so I waited until she offered something new that I liked and went from there then decided what I wanted. What I want: For her to raise both front feet off the ground and paw/beg at the air. So tonight to try and get to that I clicked pawing the air, then rewarded her high. By the end of it she was starting to get a little bounce in it so those were jackpots and we ended on that. I videoed it all and learned a few things already. One being that I need to keep my sessions shorter--holy clips! And I also witnessed again those moments where she shut down and stressed a bit (panting, looking around, sniffing the air) and then the moments where she "came back" and was back in the game...

Anything's worth a shot, right?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

I guess it's about time for an introduction.

Today is her 13th day here, so I'd say it's pretty official. Time to introduce the little demon; Simi.

Simi is a 9 week old German Shepherd Dog puppy. She's from a local breeder who breeds really nice working line dogs and does very well with her dogs in competitions of all levels.

I'd been planning a GSD pup from this breeder since before I lost Bella. I wasn't sure when I'd be getting the pup, but when I lost Bella the idea of a puppy kind of was dropped, anyway. Then on my 18th birthday, mom told me I'd be getting a puppy out of my dream bitch and that we were going to see the litter that day. So we went and met them, and I fell for a little puppy... and then life got in the way and that girl didn't end up coming to live with me. Things don't always work out like you'd planned, but everything happens for a reason.

After that Crash came home, and that alone was pushing back my puppy plans a lot.

But then, somehow, by some stroke of luck, when a litter by my favorite male was born, I was lucky enough to get a girl from that litter. They were a big litter; 10 in total, 6 females. When we went in to see them the breeder left only the females in the pen and put the boys in crates. From there we went in, Mom and I sat down at the same time and this one little puppy came to be while the others went to Mom. I was so overwhelmed by all the sable pups I couldn't tell one from the other, so the breeder started to go through the personalities of each. From there I actually liked the breeder's pick to keep the best, so she took her and a few others who wouldn't suit my needs out and left me with 3. Simi was among those three.

From there she went into more detail about each of the pups and compared Simi in look to her momma "but a little more ugly." And yet somehow, someway, and or some reason, that "ugly" little puppy was the one I was drawn to the most... after deciding on her, the breeder pointed out she was the first girl who came to see me.

She is quite something! A little spit fire with no fear at all, and very vocal. For a week or so she went without a name (she's supposed to have an L name, but we're going to try and just have her L name be her registered name), and then for some reason, the little demon out of a series of novels I'd been reading for years named Simi popped into my mind, and it hit me that that was the PERFECT name for her. I haven't doubted it since.

So a long story short, I got a GSD puppy. She's adorable.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Crossing Thresholds - Comparison

I've been working on Psyche's trial issues, and yesterday that involved taking her to the field with 3 other people, setting up a course and doing the course like it's a trial. We tug up to the entrance to the field, drop the toy, heel position in, sit stay, release, course, finish, jump into my arms then run out to her tug.

This is yesterday's example:

Now, most people would look at this and think wow, she's so stressed, but I feel the need to point out the good things, and in doing so I had a "holy crap, my dog really has come a long way" moment. In a trial, I wouldn't expect Psyche to a) hold her dog walk contact b) get on the table and lay down; she'd get up but wouldn't lay down c) do 6 weaves, let alone 12 d) hold her a-frame contact or e) come to me at the end, let alone look at me, anticipating the "get up" command.

Please note that she did all of those things in that video.

Food for thought, here. Here's a video from a trial around this time last year:

And that was a jumpers run, at a trial she got her first Q at.

So something has to be going right. My dog is still stressing, yes, but she's improving in leaps and bounds. I guess my thing now is that it's hard to realize that she's making such improvement when I don't look back, and of course, I don't remember those "bad" runs from before.

We're working on it, but honestly, this is a general path for me to head in with her. We'll keep working on it, and at least now I can stimulate the stress so I can work on it. I feel like crap for purposely stressing my dog out, but at the same time, I've been doing it at trials for more than a year now.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Crossing Thresholds Day 2

Same little course, same training field, new criteria.

Today we went up and I had treats with me, and before we ran at all, she didn't have the chance to go into the ring and romp around with her toy, which she likes to do (usually she snatches it from me on the walk up and then runs up and waits for me with a "hah, I beat you!" look). We started it just like it was a trial. The first time in, she was stressed again and I could tell. I really should try and video the next session. She kept breaking her start lines, so we worked a lot on that. I decided I wanted: a 'heel' up to the spot where I put her in a sit stay (and for Psyche that's not a very formal heel, just beside me, offering eye contact, her bum usually swings out more then it should for obedience); a sit at the start line, no stands; a held start line stay to the second jump out, AT LEAST; and at the end, I wanted her to come to me when I said, "Psyche!" and then jump into my arms when I gave the cue, from there I'd set here down and release her to her toys.

After she warmed up to the idea that we were doing that whole thing that stressed her out again she gained a lot more confidence. And from there her biggest issue was the start line stay. They aren't fun to her, and so that's something I need to work on. She gets all serious-dog while waiting, and although all I really need is for her to stay, I don't want her thinking that she has to be all serious and gruff at the start line and having that mind set for the rest of the run. So we're going to start doing some start line stay stuff outside of the ring. Any suggestions?

We spent a lot of work on that, and at one point even just start line stayed to the third jump, then I went back, rewarded and released her to her toy and ran out after her. She seemed to like that, so maybe we'll have to throw some more of those in.

Then I threw a curve ball at her. When we went into the ring, I sat her and stood with her for a few minutes, like we often have to do while waiting for the scribe to be done, the jumps to be set, or the chute to be fixed. That has been a problem for Psyche and I for a long time. It's like she works up the courage to go in, and then while she's waiting decides it's too hard. So we worked some on that, and the first time I did that, she was back to stressed. When I start lined stayed her she broke it to go sniff. So we worked on that some more. And she started to get a lot more comfortable about it.

Now, I'm starting to feel a little crappy about purposely stressing my dog out, but I do it at trials too, without even meaning to, and I can't reward her how she needs to be rewarded there, so this is better, right?

So the plan is to do this one more day at home, and then I think we'll head to the club's training field. I'm eager to see if it's got the same effect there as it does here.

And just for reading all of that...

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Crossing Thresholds.

Threshold, by definition means, "any place or point of entering or beginning". So that could mean a gate way into a new training ring, two posts that mark the entrance to a trial field, a break in the snow fence, or even between two pylons, right?

After our last few trials, I'd been thinking that something about going into the ring was the hardest part for Psyche. She was happy and calm around the trial ring, would tug up to the trial ring, give me her all on the practice jumps outside the trial ring... and then we get into the ring, and something happens. All along people have told me that maybe it's something I'm doing that's freaking her out (and maybe it is) but even when I felt calm, cool and collected, Psyche was still very stressed. Even at a fun match, when I knew it was completely for fun only, she still stressed. Even when I had her toy. She only ever was comfortable at fun matches at our own training field through the club... which has a wooden gate, but it's a gate that she's been going through since she started agility, and that gate means we're going in where she'll get lots of time to play with her toy or a class full of yummy treats.

*insert lightbulb moment here*

Now, of couse, none of this actually came to me until after today's training session. I was looking through CR sequences and course maps, looking for something good to get a good training session out of. I didn't want to just dink around today with all my equipment where it's been the last two months. Sadly, because of my lack of tunnels and real weaves, I couldn't find anything, so I decided I'd work on making our training session as trial like as possible.

We went up to the field and I moved things around into a very simple 'course':
Now, it's not hard, but remember, that's not what I was going for. However, I looked at this little sequence, in my back yard, with my horses watching me, like it was Nationals and Psyche and I were up against crazy well known agility people. We started at the gate, where I tugged with her, then got her revved up, dropped her toy and gave a "let's go" command. We walked in and the first time you could see the stress in her body. Even though this was our backyard, she was stressed about it. So we walked up to the start line, did a horrible 'start line stay' and released and did the whole 'course' with many mistakes. But at the end there was a huge celebration and she got to run out of the ring and get her toy and we had a long play session.

Second time we do the same thing and I get a lot more confidence walking into the ring, but still not crazy comfortable. I manage to get a nice stand stay from her and she sails through the course with a couple issues with her weaves (now, this is an easy weave entry. And she knows it. But at a trial, even the most simple weave entry she'll miss if she's stressing, so I was expecting some messed up weaves.). But again, at the end, huge party, run out and get her tug, lots of play.

Third time, she pranced into the ring like she owned the place, start line stayed, and blew my mind. She was still a little iffy, you could tell, but getting more confident.

Now, there were some mistakes I made. I should have had treats on me, in my pocket, to reward a start line stay (and eagerly offering me a sit, because once she gets stressed she doesn't want to sit or down) and so that at the end I could call her back to me, reward, and then BOTH of us walk out and get her tug. This is something we'll work on next time for sure.

This little thing about thresholds is something I'm going to work on for a while. I think it'll help her a lot. But I'm going to do the treat thing, because I feel like the treats are a good way for me to get her understanding exactly what I want. Now it's a matter of maintaining my criteria. Maybe I need one of those "Note to self: Maintain Criteria" pendants from Mad Dog Metalworks?!

Over all, a really amazing session. Even though I could feel her stressing, it felt good to be working on it and actually see some of her trial issues at home, in training. I've always felt at a loss because those issues didn't show up in the places that I could actually work on fixing them, so now, if I can recreate the situation and work on teaching her how to handle it... this might lead to something.

It's a never ending journey, that's for sure.