Friday, April 8, 2011

Agility and Grace

Grace has really change in so many ways since we started agility.  She has always been an interesting girl, but since starting agility I have seen several changes.  Fisrt off, she is much more interested in working with me than she used to be. Yet, at the same time she has gotten more vocal about doing things her way than she used to be.  Vocal to the point that she is constantly barking instructions to me-and its carrying over to the obedience ring. I need to find a way to stop it.  I may start pulling her off course when she barks, but I don't know if that is a good way of dealing with it.

  I need suggestions if anyone has any.

When we started agility, she was moving, but more slowly, now, she is showing speed.  Now I need to speed up, but that is a whole 'nuther issue!   Grace has never been interested in toys, and although she will not tug yet, she is starting to at least chase the tug for a minute or so.  Her stays in obeience and home situations have improved significantly, but her start line stays in agility are horrible. She will stay in a down so far, but not in a sit, so I have given in and am using a down.  And although overall she is just as independent as she has always been, she is also more cooperative. I know it sounds like those two things wouldn't happen at the same time, but she makes it work. Thngs like she hasn't really played the you can't catch me game in quite a while. Of course now that I mention it, it will probably happen.

The most interesting change, though, I can't quite figure out if its related to agility or not is her relationship with David.  She has always been very independent.  If she looked to anyone for anything, going out, tummy rubs or begging, it was always me.  Lately, since David started riding along to agility class (his class with Siren is after our class, so we go together) she has suddenly started looking to David for thngs. She now will ask him to take her outside, or go to him for tunny rubs.  Last night I asked her where's David and she ran right to him.  She is 5 and has lived with David for her whole life so I really find this interesting,  I am glad though, because it means if I am busy she will ask someone else to go outside.

I am really enjoying doing agility with Grace, and I am really looking forward to starting our herding lessons too.  Which is something I never expected to think 5 years ago when this really tough puppy had me in tears more often than not.  She is my girl.


Jules said...

I am so glad agility is having such a positive impact for Grace. re the barking I am unsure what to suggest. :(

Taryn said...

I hate blogger sometimes! I just spent 20 minutes writing a long comment, and blogger ate it! AARRRRGGGGHHHHH!!! I'll try again later.....

Red Dog Mom said...

Grace sounds so much like Ra sometimes. I would bet she's sassing you because you are,in her opinion, slow not too bright :) She's got the speed and confidence to move a lot faster but you aren't cueing her early enough so she's reading you the riot act because she doesn't know where to go next. Moira never really learned sit, we did down for herding, so I use that in agility too. Her down/stay is iffy when it comes to agility - she's way too motivated/obstacle focused to wait for me to tell her what to do. For a really fast dog, I like a down because, while you might lose a little time, it takes them a little longer to get up a full head of steam from a down. It buys you some time to get moving too.
My recollection is that Magic is fast but he's more concerned about working with and for you. Grace will be faster and she's more independent so it's up to you to learn how to handle a dog like that. I had to go through the same thing w/the differences between Sam and Ra. This is an opportunity for you to put a lot more tools in your agility handling tool-belt. Distance handling will be a biggie!

Taryn said...

OK, I am trying my comment again, and this time I am going
to be smart and write it in Notepad and copy it over!
I know I won't remember all that I wrote last time but here we go.....

I have had two of Grace's issues with Jimmy: barking at me on course and startline stay issues.

Now Jimmy LOVES agility and there's not much I could do
that would discourage him I don't think. For his startline problems,
I usually just snag him and march him back to his crate. You don't stay...You don't play! It's as simple as that.
To add insult to injury, I will run Wilson instead. You better believe, when Jimmy gets his next turn, he stays!
Letting him run a course after breaking his stay is just way too self-rewarding so I just don't let him.
Now for Grace, if her down/stay is rock solid, why not just work with that. One of the things handlers often forget
to do as they progress in agility is to continue rewarding the skills that are already learned. It is important to
keep rewarding for that stay. Put Grace in a stay, lead out as far as you can, go back and reward.
Lead out again, go back and reward. Make it random enough that Grace is always hoping
you are coming back with a treat. This is something you should do throughout her training
especially as agility itself becomes more and more rewarding. Also, alot of this is about
impulse control in a charged atmosphere. Are you familiar with Susan Garrett's Crate Games?
I worked through that program when Jim was a pup and it helped alot. I also work my stays all the time in day to day life.
Going out the back door, going out the gates, having the leash removed....anything that leads to a
very rewarding situation is a good place to build value for the stay...That whole Premack principle.

Now I don't have a cure for the barking. Jimmy screams at me still throughout my classes
and lessons. But he only does this when he doesn't know what I want. He's frustrated with late
cues that lead to him making a mistake. He hates to be wrong and he lets me know it!
Since Grace is just now starting to speed up and gain more enthusiasm
I don't think you want to correct her in the agility ring. The best way to help her
is to work on your distance handling. She's getting faster than you so you need to be able to send her on ahead
of you to the next obstacle. If you don't have a "Go On" command, that would be a good place to start.
Send her to a jump that's just a couple steps ahead of you. Have David help you by being on the landing
side of the jump to give her the treat. Don't let him lure her, she has to get the treat for going forward on her own.
Little by little build the sending distance up. After she begins to understand "go on", try adding a bit of lateral distance
so you can be moving on to the next obstacle while she completes her "go on". This way you can get a bit
of a lead on her to indicate the next obstacle. When she understands where she's going, she will stop
barking. My instructor always points out when I've had a quiet run, she'll say "See that, you handled it correctly,
Jimmy didn't make a peep that whole run". Sadly, a quiet run is rare as Paulena's courses are super-tough!
Fortunately, her courses make trials much easier as they are rarely as technical as hers.

I know you do lots of training in a variety of dog sports, so I probably haven't told you anything new.
These are just observations on what I have been through. Good Luck!

Karissa said...

Very frequently when our dogs bark at us in agility (the herding dogs in particular) it is because WE screwed something up or are not performing up to our dog's standards. Luke & Secret bark at me when I correct them for something, generally something that was my fault to begin with. Luke barks in the weaves because he's trying so hard and he's responding to my encouragement. Luke also barks when I give him a cue late, just to let me know I suck. Not sure what to tell you about the barking carrying over to obedience -- That's not my world, but I know it's not a good thing.

I don't give a rip what position the dog is in at the start line, so long as they stay there until I release them. Most dogs hate sit stays at the start and find them very demotivating, but are fine with a down or stand. I say do what works for the dog. Agility is NOT obedience.

With fast dogs and slow(er) handlers, distance is your key. Distance work is not just for experienced handlers/dogs, it can be started at any time. I'd suggest you start now. :o) Grace sounds awesome!

Robin Sallie said...

Think of barking as a latency problem. When Grace starts barking, remove the opportunity to earn the reward and reset her to retry the exercise. Split whatever you are working on into smaller pieces and resetting her for barking, so you able to increase the rate of reinforcement. The barking should decrease.

Do matches where your *only* goal is to get some quiet work where normally you would be getting barking. If that means you only do the first 15 seconds of the heeling pattern I think that is OK!

Go back and retrain cues with "silence" being an explicit criterion. However, if you think she were unhealthily aroused, work on overall arousal.