Saturday, July 31, 2010

camp part one....

We survived our day at camp. From 7am-5pm. As promised, the weather was awesome. I wore long pants and a jacket most of the day.

Our first session was on jumping foundation skills. This was pretty much a disaster for us. First, she wanted to see if our dogs had hind end awareness. Well, YOU all know Oreo does. However, he refused to do his "scoot" trick. Oh well. I know from endless work on the elephant trick, he knows he has hind legs.

Then, we did a one jump exercise. Calling the dog over a jump to a target, with a bar on the ground (3 feet in front of the jump for Oreo). She wanted the dogs to do a startline stay.

Yeah, well we don't do startline stays. Oreo wasn't doing it. He immediately got stressed. The instructor said she would hold him. I said that would stress him out. So, she just knelt and fed him treats while I walked to the other side of the jump and called him. He very slowly walked over the jump to me.....We tried again, a little more effort, but not my happy, jumping dog. At least he was taking treats from a stranger.

Next exercise....a line of 5 jumps. Each 3 feet apart. I would wait at the end of the line of jumps and call him from his stay! This really stressed Oreo, and he headed for the exit. She told me to go get him. I called him to "touch", and he came to my hand, I clicked/treated. She told me I shouldn't have done that, because I was rewarding him for leaving the ring. We did the line of jumps both ways, and then he headed for the exit. She told me to go get him again. I brought him back over, and told her that I really feel bad about doing this to him. She said, "He's fine, he's still working for you, he's eating treats, and his ears are up."

Well, I didn't want him to just be fine and working. I've been trying to keep him HAPPY.

She thinks that I have been rewarding him too much for leaving the ring, and need to reward him more for entering the ring. Perhaps, but I think he was in "flight mode". He wanted out of this situation.

Luckily, the last exercise, I was able to run with him, so it went a bit better, but I was ready to go home.

Onto the next ring. This was the contacts/weaves ring. We ran short, 9 obstacle courses. The instructor followed us around the ring while we ran, Oreo did pretty well. He went around one jump, but still kept a good pace, did fast weaves and his new, improved fast dogwalk.

After our first run, the instructor said, "This is a nervous dog. This dog should never do a startline stay. This dog knew exactly where I was the entire time he was running the course. What happened in this dog's life to make him like this?"

I told him that Oreo had been attacked by two dogs.

He said, "That explains it. We don't need to focus on his contacts and weaves. This dog goes in the ring, and is worried if he is going to make it out alive." I breathed a sigh of relief, and felt like someone finally understands my dog, and had him pegged in 2 seconds.

We did 4 runs in that ring, with the instructor lurking the entire time, and Oreo ran really well. After the first run, he never missed an obstacle, and he ran fast, even with his sideways glances.

After the session, I spoke with the instructor about trialing. I told him I was thinking about pulling Oreo from trials all together, until I could get his stress level down. He suggested just entering him in the runs with short courses, like colors and wildcard. I told him how we've been unable to Q in standard level 3. He told me to go back to level 2, or leave the ring after 10 obstacles. He also told me never to enter the ring until the last second, so Oreo won't have time to stress over the ring crew/timer/scribe, etc. Basically, I need to bring him in and run immediately. Luckily, this is pretty much accepted in CPE & DOCNA.

Another woman asked the instructor, "How can I maintain a connection with my dog in the ring?"

He pointed to me and said, "Do what she does."

Wow. That was the nicest thing I could hear. After packing up my stuff to move on to our next session, he told me, "You have a very nice dog."

Yep. I do.

More later.....this is a long post, and I'm too tired to write anymore....


Sam said...

Ugh about the first person! It sounds like who ever that first instructor was knew everything about agility but nothing about dogs with fears.

I will say, though, the idea about rewarding him when he's going in to the ring is a nice thought. Have you thought about giving him in "we're going in the ring" cue? You can reinforce it in practice by jackpotting him every time he enters the ring. I see a lot of top obedience handlers doing it, but I can see it working for Oreo with agility, too.

The second instructor sounded really helpful. I hope you have more good experiences tomorrow.

Diana said...

Im so sorry Sara that the first instructor didnt understand your dog at all. What the heck?? How was any of that helpful to you and your dog.

But what a great 2nd half of the day. And what a compliament from him. Good for you. Diana

Sara said...

Sam, in class, I always continuously treat him as we are walking in the ring, right up until when we start to run. I haven't put it on cue though. Interesting idea.

Priscilla said...

I'm sorry for your bad start to the day!!
I'm glad your second instructor understood Oreo really well! I hope you get him as your instructor for the next few days! He's so sweet to praise you!

So, what do you do to maintain your connection with Oreo in the ring?

Sam said...

Yeah, the OB people do it to get their dog heeling as they walk through the ring gates, but it could work for Oreo just to make it more clear to him or something.

Jules said...

I am sorry the day started so crappy, but it sounds like you got some super feedback in the next session.

Marie said...

Wow, what a way to start off the day! I hate feeling like someone is pushing me to do something with my dog that I'm not comfortable with. I was so relieved to hear that the second instructor was so spot on with his evaluation of you and Oreo. That was a huge compliment that he gave you!

andrea said...

that's awesome about the ending to the day

it's always hard working with new people who may or may not "get" where you are at ... I am such a stick in the mud now

Ricky the Sheltie said...

Ditto what almost everybody else said! I am really proud of you and Oreo doing an all day camp! I doubt that Ricky and I would make it to lunch let alone all day.

Super nice compliment from the second instructor who really knew what he was doing!

Kathy said...

wow, what a hard way to start the day and it is so hard when the whole class is there and the instructor is making you feel like you baby your dog and everyone else is doing the exercise that way.......what a place to be. LUCKILY it sounds like that horror was balanced by the next instructor. I LOVE they said to just do the shorter courses and go back to the lower level. When I was running Chloe I put her way back in classes so they were classes with way shorter sequences and way easier, way below her level she could have done but it helped her sooo much. It was funny because so many people we train with were really looking down their nose for that decision, but as their dogs got more and more stressed, ran slower and slower and had more and more problems, mine was the only one that really started running fast and being happy. Sounds like you really got a lot out of that session, that is totally cool. I can see why you would be really tired though, that sounds like a LONG, rough day. Oreo has come SUCH A LONG WAY, and is doing soooo terrific, and it is because of the connection you have with him and all the things you have done. You have a FANTASTIC handle on Oreo and how to help him and I think you will always go in the right direction if you follow your heart and your intuition, no one knows him like you do and no one knows what works for him like you do, sure it always helps to have others ideas but you are the Oreo expert! I think today just reaffirms that!

LauraK said...

You do have a very nice dog, and don't you forget that :)

The first instructor wasn't very nice to you, I probably would have cried and left! Sam has a great idea about cueing going into the ring, maybe that would help Oreo put two and two together.

Sounds like your second part of the day was much better and your instructor was very understanding. Hope you have a fun day today!

AC said...

I wrote a long, blood boiling comment in response to instructor 1 yesterday but my internet connection died before I could submit it.

In summary: Grrrrr!!!!

It's a real bummer that so many professional trainers don't know a thing about fearful dogs. The concept of reinforcing fear or a fearful response with treats is such an old school way of thinking. As is the idea that it's OK for a dog to just "cope" or "work through fears." It seems to come from the same school of thought as "dominance" training and I think it can be just as detrimental to a fearful dog.

I'm soooo glad your second session was better. I think your instructor gave you one of the best compliments a dog mom can ever get.

Dawn said...

Double ditto re: comments about the first instructor. I hope you don't have any sessions with her today!

I teared up when I read that the second instructor got it immediately!

I learned from Diana that you have to stand your ground when an instructor wants you to do something that you know will harm the emotional health of your dog. Though they may be the "expert" you are the only one that knows your dog and what he's been through (other than us of course! LOL!) and what will motivate him. Instructors would do well to listen to us once in awhile!