Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Time to confess, you guys.

Okay, seriously now? Who stole my little demon puppy and replaced her with a decently behaved canine citizen?

Simi had another class of Grade 2 Obedience last night. Since Grade 1 (a 6 week course) we've been struggling with her stress in this specific training facility. It's an indoor building and the echoes in there are what I've always assumed was her problem. She really hates the place, honestly. Most days, we'd get there and she'd cower in the car, not wanting to come out and then go indoors. I hoped that time would get her over it, but it seemed to get worse and worse.

Last week we had an okay class. She did pretty well and was less stressed than normal. I took that as a huge win. At the end of class, I fed her her whole meal for the night in little 5-10 piece piles all throughout the room. I dropped her leash (when everyone but a few dogs, who were standing with their owners by the door, was gone) and let her follow me around as I placed her food on the floor. The first two or three piles you could see her slinking. She was more scared without me, but I kept going, figuring that since she's still eating, she can't be that stressed. We pushed through and by the last 10 or so piles, Simi was running to keep up to me, while I ran to try to keep ahead of her to drop food. She was visibly more comfortable.

This week when we got there, she was a little leery coming out of the car, but she made the choice to come out on her own and so that was a big step. She'd been coming out on her own before, as well, but it was a much slower process. When we walked around a bit for her pee there was no pulling back towards the car and she seemed slightly more at ease. So we go inside. Instead of pulling to get right back out the door, which she will sometimes do, she walked forward with me across the room to the far end, no hesitations. We started immediately with ... I can't even think of that they're called, but basically when you go from a front position step back on your left food, dog goes back, turns, comes forward into a heel... anyway! We started with those and I kept them very "fast" as fast as I could do them and she did really well. She was really into it. I'd discovered at Agility the night before that the faster we're moving the more focus she had, so I tried to use that at class last night.

She did have some moments where she started to get a little stressy, but she recovered quickly, which I really like a lot. She was crazy when it came to the loose lead walking; we were just very "off", both of us, for that exercise, and she was struggling a little bit with sits along the wall, and was going in front of me a lot, but we've been doing that since a really young age, so I think it was just an off night.

Sim really rocked the eye contact. We've kind of fallen behind in that, not sure why, but we had. A few well timed clicks and lots of patience and I had her caught up to where everyone else was in class, if not slightly ahead. She had some serious progress with her stay, which had been iffy at agility the night before, and she had some huge moments of success with her perch work. I think it was a combination of my finally understanding how I need to teach it and how all of the steps come together, plus my finally letting her start by coming to my right side instead of left. We'll teach left after when she knows what it is she has to do.

I am just starting to feel like things are clicking with Simi. Maybe it's that I was gone Friday-Monday, or maybe it's that she turned 7 months on Sunday, or maybe it's just me noticing her potential for the first time... what ever it is, I like it. :)

Monday, April 23, 2012

If this was a taste...

I'd like an order, please!

Tonight was Simi's first agility class. It's an intro to agility class and so it's really basic foundation stuff. But still really good for Simi. She was a little freaked out at first in meeting Erin (who is teaching the class) but warmed up, then had a little moment with her shoulder and Erin and that was bad, but I think we set things right after (with both, I hope -- sorry again, Erin!). In terms of the other dogs, she did pretty well. There's a pug in our class that she's a little iffy about, as she has been before with the squishy faced dogs, but we'll work on it.

We started with tugging after introductions and Simi was really good. She can sometimes be a little slow to catch onto her tug, but she was really going for it tonight. After that we did some circle work, which she did okay at, but not great. But it'll get better, I know it. Then it was time for recalls and I was worried Simi would want to go over to the Pug, but she did REALLY well. I am super proud of her. Next comes tugging and collar grabs, which honestly, I didn't understand, but I was told that Simi's used to it and what we were doing (throwing the toy, holding her back, amping her up with a collar grab, releasing to the toy and tugging) was more advanced, so we mostly just did some of that. Then we moved to release word work, releasing with only the word, no movement of the body. And she did well with this, too, but was starting to get tired and totally didn't want to hold her sits or downs.

I noticed a huge up in her focus and enthusiasm when my speed was up and that makes me pretty excited. The moment I move faster than a walk she perks up and is like "oh yeah, it's go time." So that makes me really excited. All in all, if this was a taste of what agility with The Simi is going to be like, I'm super stoked.

Stay tuned for more updates. :)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Schutzhund as a second fiddle sport?

I've been thinking a lot about this for the last few months.

When I first started working with Simi's breeder, I was just coming out to her house in the evenings, working some dogs on obedience some rain or snow (lots of rain -- I worked one pup in the rain one night until we were both soaked!) and later on started coming out to the clubs training days to watch Schutzhund. I enjoyed that, a lot. I still love going out and watching. It seems like a lot of fun and I can really appreciate the time and effort put into training it.

However. This brings us to Simi. Simi will be 7 months old on the 22nd of this month and we've been out to Schutzhund training all of once. I bought Simi with the intention of, first and foremost, a pet, but also a working dog in the sense that we'd do sports. Agility was always my first intention in terms of sports. After that I wanted to get into Schutzhund and maybe even a little herding. The thing I'm running into now is that even though Simi is still young, I know that when it comes times to start training for agility (more than the little bit we're doing now) that we'll be spending a lot of time on it. The older she gets, the more we're going to train. I have agility equipment in my backyard. I have an agility field. I'm on the executive of the club, and I'm at trials on the weekends with Psyche, and hope to be at more with her as I work through her issues. Training agility is easy for me.

Schutzhund doesn't need much in terms of equipment, but it's a lot of time. A lot of time. And I have to drive 45 minutes to the training club to work on the training days, and fees for the club are about three times more than the agility club fees. Schutzhund trials are as expensive or more so than trials. Training days with the club are in the evenings (which I often can't make, because of work or school) and on the weekends. Agility trials are on the weekends.

Really, agility will be easier for Simi and I. It'll be more accessible and so that will make it easier for me to train and enjoy. I'm at a bit of a crossroads, here. Maybe Simi and I won't do schutzhund... maybe we will... it's really completely undecided right now.

Not that she's doing much right at this minute... dummy was giving me too much eye contact while walking and tripped in a hole (I really don't know if I should be upset about the eye contact... I was pretty impressed at the time!) and hurt the shoulder she hurt back in February. Urgh. Back to crate rest.