After only one month’s preparation, Athena and I will enter the obedience ring once more tomorrow, but this time we’ll be competing in the Intermediate class. We have not mastered all the exercises perfectly. For instance, Athena can reliably clear the high jump at 23″: she must do 36″ tomorrow, and her retrieve is still rough around the edges. However, her work shows remarkable progress.
Two weeks ago she refused the jumps. I had to take her back to the beginner’s stage, letting her jump very low heights, rewarding, and raising the heights very gradually. I also had to change the cue, as I discovered that somehow the old ones got poisoned. The results: she offers me jumps now. Some will say that is not a good thing in a competition dog; however, the fact that she offers the jumps without me cuing her says that she actually likes to jump, and she knows what she’s to do. And, she’s jumping off leash. How could I possibly correct that?
We may not be perfect, and I have no idea how we will do in the ring tomorrow. We may be brilliant, we may stink. Regardless of the outcome, I remind myself that the process, the journey of getting to where we are, is far more important than the product, the first place, or the trophy. While those are nice to have, I am more interested in how my dog learned, and that she had fun learning and performing, and that she will look forward to more training and trials.
That said, I sign off for now as handler and dog must be well rested for the task at hand tomorrow.
The three dogs–Gretchen, Tuvok, and Athena–continue to make progress in their training, although I am so inconsistent in my work with them. That’s the beauty with clicker training: what you teach sticks!
This is the first week, since I’ve returned to work in January, that I’ve trained three days, and the week’s not yet over. That’s huge progress. The most I’ve ever trained is two days in a week. Last year this time, however, I didn’t train any of my dogs between January and May. I did a bit of work with Athena during the summer (when it wasn’t too hot), but she still managed to win the Novice trial in November, with High in Trial (99/100 points).
Athena now has a reliable 30-second stand-stay, and is doing the high and long jumps quite well. The jump heights are under the required height for her class, but that’s okay for now. She did two lovely recalls for me today, too.
Gretchen has a semi-reliable 30-second sit-stay. She does this on leash. She has an awesome down-stay, too. I have started doing rear-end awareness exercises with her and her brother, Tuvok. Tonight I had them walk through the rungs of a ladder that was laid out flat on the grass.
Gretchen’s loose-leash walking is weak, and I realize that I really need to focus on that skill now, while she’s five months old and still controllable. Tuvok’s isn’t much better. My problem is that I train late at night when going into the yard after dusk guarantees a feast for the vampires, I mean MOSQUITOS. I train in the house at night and in the yard during the day (problem is I’m never home during the day).
I’ve started getting up early to train at least one dog before work. Some mornings it just doesn’t happen. Yet, I press on and hope for the best.
I want to still raise and train dogs. Click here to see an incredible video of George Richards and his daschund, Hummel as they win the Daschund Speciality Utility Obedience Trail earlier this year.
There is just no limit to what we can do. We impose our own limitations.