Nothing important. No ribbons, no passes, no title or medallions.
Archive for the ‘dog training’ Category
There she was, doing a quick heel around the cones in Rally class, when suddenly, a duck started quacking. Tooey stopped in her tracks, her attention totally off me, looking toward the area where the quacking was coming from.
The quacking stopped. After a few beats, I got her attention back, and we started heeling again. Then the quacking started up again: “Q-u-a-c-k, q-u-a-c-k, quack, quack, quack, quack.” Just like the mechanincal quacks that are used on wingers during hunt tests.
Tooey stopped again, focussed on the area where the quacking was coming from.
I could not get her attention. That quacking had her rivetted.
Finally, the right command came to me. “No bird,” I said. “No bird.” She turned and looked at me, as if to say, “Oh… No bird. Are you sure?”
The quacking stopped just then. Why? Because the owner answered her phone. She’d had it set to quack when that particular caller called, and being an obedient phone, that’s exactly what it did.
And Tooey and I got back to heeling.
Who knew we’d have to proof against quacking in the Rally ring?
Posted in dog training, hunting / hunt training, life with dog, Obedience/Rally, Realta Rosario Cooper, Stanegate Second Thoughts, tagged Irish Water Spaniels, IWS on March 10, 2013 | Leave a Comment »
Yesterday had to turn out well, no matter what happened. How could it not with a sunny, warm and dry day in March out with the dogs?
We started out at one of our favorite training grounds with a picnic hunt test put on by the Greater Pacific NW Retriever Trial Club. This is the same site where the club will put on a real hunt test later this month, and we want to help Tooey get comfortable in those surroundings should we decide to enter her in the test.
As the morning progressed, she got better with her marking. Russ had to handle her to the area of the fall on her first bird, but by the afternoon, she successfully trotted through the the area of her third bird to get to her fifth bird, which landed in line with the third, but 25 yards further out.
Tooey is not a naturally confident performer, so we were happy to see that she didn’t let the fact that there were a bunch of strangers hiding out in the field faze her. (Strangers being out in the field has been a problem in the past.)
I ran Cooper in the field. Or at least, I tried to. I had resolved that if he broke at the line, I’d march him back to the car. Sigh… I gave him several chances, but Cooper spent most of the morning in the car.
After field practice, we drove about 30 minutes to the building where Cooper’s next Rally trial will be held. Fortunately, yesterday the owner was sponsoring “tickers” — short bursts of time when you can take your dog into the ring and do whatever you want within the provided setup. We arrived in time to run Tooey twice through a Rally Advanced setup and Cooper twice through a Rally Excellent setup.
Tooey did okay with a lot of enthusiastic encouragement, and Cooper did great. In fact, except for the fact that he didn’t jump the high jump the first time I asked him to, all of the mistakes were my mis-reading or forgetting the signs.
The contrast between Cooper’s field work with me and his Rally work was striking. Out in the field, he was completely not aware that I even existed. In the Rally ring, he gave me lots of really impressive (for him) attention and had a lot of fun.
I feel pretty good about our chances of qualifying in Rally Excellent next weekend. I’ll have to study the signs again and bring my cheat sheet with me, but at least Cooper will be familiar with the venue when we get there.
But the dog day didn’t end there. We finished up with a bath. Never Cooper’s favorite, but necessary. He was so dirty that the shampoo turned brown.
After all that, I was tired. Tooey lay down in that sweet spot where she could keep an eye on both me in the dining room and Russ in the kitchen. But not Cooper. No. When I finally got to sit down with some scotch and my book, what did I find at my feet? A tennis ball and a hopeful Cooper smiling up at me.
Posted in dog behavior, dog training, hunting / hunt training, life with dog, Realta Rosario Cooper, tagged hunt, hunting with Irish Water Spaniels, Irish Water Spaniels, IWS, Sauvie Island duck hunting on December 16, 2012 | 4 Comments »
Hunting ducks is somewhat of a misnomer. Sitting and waiting is a better description. Sitting and waiting in the middle of winter, in bad weather, and in the dark of night is even more descriptive. So why do it?
Cooper is my primary reason.
The typical protocol is to make your way to the duck blind well before the sun comes up. Trudge through the muck, the ponds, the farm fields in total darkness. Then set out a bunch of decoys in knee-high frigid water (with maybe a hint of glow on the east horizon if it is not raining too hard). Wade back to the blind and then wait for the sun to come up with your loyal Irish Water Spaniel.
But while it is dark, it is not quiet.
Migrating birds by the hundreds (thousands?) fly all night long immediately overhead. Ducks create a chorus of whistling wings in full surround-sound as they make their way to points south. Geese talk to each other non-stop while cruising the night sky. Sandhill cranes plan their day while flying in flocks of a dozen or so. Then, as the sun starts to come up, all goes quiet.
Unless weather, birds, and your horoscope are all lined up, there is good chance that one can sit and wait even longer. But the sights are wonderful. Thousands of Canadian geese rise or land in unison, swirling like feathered tornadoes. The occasional group of ducks fly low and fast, avoiding predators, including Cooper and me. Sandhill cranes converge in nearby pastures. And Marsh harriers mix hunting and romance as they tack back and forth past the blind, ignoring us as we sit in our front row seats.
As the sun pops over the horizon, but before it slips behind a sky of overcast and rain, there is a brief moment of less than a minute, when picture postcards can be seen in every direction.
For two hours, Cooper sat quietly in the blind, scanning the flooded corn fields and ponds, wondering why I didn’t call for the bird. To date, in every hunt test he has competed, there has been a retrieve within moments of his entering the blind. So what gives this time?
Patrice’s obedience training with Cooper is now paying off in spades. For logistical reasons, there are not 2 hour sit-stays in obedience competition, but if there were, today Cooper would have qualified.
No ducks today. But having spent several hours listening to and watching our amazing world with Cooper is why we sit in a duck blind, in the cold and dark.
While not considered appropriate behavior in some circles, Cooper did get a retrieve or so. Not ducks, but I did let him help retrieve the decoys before we headed back home for a hot breakfast (and a dog bath).
Posted in dog grooming, dog training, life with dog, Realta Rosario Cooper, Stanegate Second Thoughts, tagged field training, hunting dog grooming, Irish Water Spaniel, Irish Water Spaniels, IWS on October 8, 2012 | Leave a Comment »
Saturday evening we had guests coming, so Saturday morning I got busy brushing and combing the dogs. It always takes a while. Tooey gets mats behind her ears and between her toes, and Cooper’s coat collects a sample of every bit of vegetation he wanders through.
So by the time our guests arrived, the dogs were relatively neat, and our guests were mostly charmed. (Perhaps they got a little tired of Cooper’s frequent offers of a soggy tennis ball, and Tooey did her stand-offish bit for a while…)
Then Sunday morning, after our guests went off for the day, and it being an absolutely and uncharacteristically beautiful, warm, and dry October day, we decided to go field training.
We had a lot of fun. We always do. We did walking singles and lining drills, and both dogs did pretty well.
The dogs also collected hundreds and hundreds, nay thousands, of seeds. The field was covered with 1 to 3 foot grass cover, all of it ripe and waiting for some force to come along and help distribute the seeds. My dogs were happy to be that force.
And distribute the seeds they did. I could have planted an entire meadow with the seeds my dogs collected, even with the dogs’ short field cuts. I pulled seeds out from between their toes, from under the eyelids (thank you Rod for your advice about checking the eyelids), and from around the ears (though none got into the ears, thank you Martyn for your advice on ear grooming).
Brushing didn’t get all the seeds out, so both dogs went into the bath, which got out a lot more of seeds, and then got blown dry, which got out almost all the rest of them.
So, I guess I could have (should have) waited until Sunday to do all that brushing and combing. The dogs probably would have liked that better. But the extra brushing didn’t hurt. And they’re clean now. For at least a while.
Posted in dog training, hunting / hunt training, life with dog, Realta Rosario Cooper, Stanegate Second Thoughts, tagged Irish Water Spaniels, IWS, Oregon Hunting Retriever Club, single marks on August 4, 2012 | Leave a Comment »
This morning, Russ ran Tooey and I ran Cooper in first three marks of the Oregon Hunting Retriever “5 singles” practice retriever test. This afternoon we ran marks 4 and 5.
These marks were also about 125 yards each. Both of them were set up so that the dog was supposed to run first over land, then through the running water, and back onto land to nab the duck. On the 4th mark, the duck splashed just a bit where land met the pond, while on the 5th mark, the bird landed into a large patch of tall yellow mustard-colored flowers (which was also carefully watched from about 50 yards away by a very large cow).
Cooper did his routine dash ahead of me to the line, reluctant sit at heel, and excellent marking of the fall of each bird. He also, hallelujah!, did not try to break. (I had the same light leash threaded to his collar to prevent his leaving the line before being sent, but he didn’t appear to need it this time.)
He knew exactly where those birds landed — that was not the issue. This afternoon, the issue was that he “cheated.”
To understand this instance of cheating, picture a big capital C. The start line is below the C. The land is the C itself, and the water is the space within the C. In retriever hunt tests, the dog is supposed to go in as straight a line as possible from the starting line to the bird. These two marks were specifically designed so that the bird fell on the top of the C. So the dog s supposed to leave the start line below the C, run across the land at the bottom of the C, through the water that is in the middle of the C, and then onto the land at the top of the C, where the bird is. The dog is then supposed to grab the bird, and then retrace his path, back into the water, across the bottom of the C, and then back to the start line.
Cooper, being the efficient spaniel that he is, sees no sense in this. It’s faster and easier to cheat by going around on the C of land, rather than run through water in the middle of the C. So that’s what he did, twice. He always gets his birds, as fast as possible and according to his own rules.
Tooey, bless her little retriever heart, did not cheat much at all. She went mostly through the water to the birds. She loves the water, which helps. But she also seems to have learned that “go straight” lesson pretty well when she was training with Butch, a hunt test pro.
Her 4th bird was a bit tricky. She did veer off a little into cheating territory and got distracted by something on the side of the C that needed investigation. Russ waited for awhile, and then whistled her to sit. She sat, and he directed her in an “Over” toward the bird. You could almost read the thought bubble over her head, “Oh! Yeah. I’m supposed to be getting a duck. Okay.”
She got into the water, and trotted through it to the bird. She put her head down to pick up the bird, but then flinched back. Slowly, she lowered her head again, and jerked back again. Finally, she put her head down a third time, grabbed the bird, hopped back into the water, and trotted through it, onto land, and back to Russ. A bee, maybe? We never did see what was making her flinch.
Her 5th mark was much more straight and straightforward. Go get duck. Bring it back. Beautiful work. We were both so happy and pleased. The judge even commented that Tooey and one other Junior dog did the best job with that last mark — straight to the bird and back.
A nice bonus was the they gave ribbons for placements in this “5 singles” practice test. And Tooey took 2nd in the Junior division.
Good girl, Tooey!
Cooper didn’t get any ribbons, but I doubt that he cares. Ribbons, smmibbons! When can I go retrieve another bird?
Posted in dog training, hunting / hunt training, life with dog, Realta Rosario Cooper, Stanegate Second Thoughts, tagged Irish Water Spaniels, IWS, Oregon Hunting Retriever Club, single marks on August 4, 2012 | 1 Comment »
We are spending what will be a very hot day in Portland doing hunt test training.
A local hunting retriever club is putting on a “5 singles” practice test. There are three marks this morning, one is a live flyer on the land and the other two are both land-water marks. And each one is at least 125 yards long.
Cooper, of course, smoked the marks. He zoomed out and zoomed back to deliver the bird to hand each time. His issue is being steady, so that is what worked on.
He wore his buckle collar with a very light leash strung through it. That way, if he broke, I could hold on and prevent him from leaving the line. But he did pretty well. When each bird went down, he stood up out of his sit, but he did not move forward. Good boy! Of course, getting to the line is something else. He does like to get out there ahead of his handler.
Tooey did a very workmanlike job on all three marks. She watched each bird go down, and then went out at a fast trot to get each one.
The second mark involved running on land for a bit, hopping into the water, and then going through a bunch of decoys and around a large log. She had to look around for that bird, but once she found it, she grabbed it up and brought it almost right back.
I say almost because on the second mark, she fetched up the bird from the water, but then put it down on the water’s edge. But then she picked it right back up and trotted back with it.
So far so good. Happy wet dogs and pleased people. Now we’ll see what the afternoon brings besides 100F temperatures.
Posted in dog training, hunting / hunt training, life with dog, Realta Rosario Cooper, Stanegate Second Thoughts, tagged generalizing dog training, hunt training, Irish Water Spaniels, IWS on July 30, 2012 | Leave a Comment »
This morning I went out with Mark and Kevin, and their two Boykin spaniels, to an all new training ground. New grounds are good, if for nothing else than to generalize the work of retrieving birds. It’s like repeating to the dogs: “If you see a bird go up and then go down, and if you’re sent for it, you must go get it, even if the environment is strange and new.”
Cooper will retrieve almost anything, anywhere. But Tooey has gotten thrown off from time to time in new places and with new people, and especially with new guys. So this was excellent training for her.
We had three wingers and threw singles, doubles plus singles, and triples, and triples plus singles for the dogs, depending on where they are in training. Tooey did three very nice singles, ranging from 70 to 100 yards, all through low cover. She did a great job of ignoring the two strange guys out there, and just getting the job done. And she did it for me, which pleased me very much. (Usually, she works for Russ.)
Cooper did a long single, and then tried a triple, with the original single being used as the memory bird (the last bird to be retrieved). As usual, Cooper did things his own way. He retrieved the single just fine. Then he watched the triple go down, and retrieved the “go” bird (the last bird to go down and the first bird to be retrieved, out to the left), then the “memory” bird (the bird that goes down first, and is supposed to be retrieved last, out to the right), and then he couldn’t quite remember where the second bird went down (the middle bird, in the middle).
OK, so back to the car for a moment to get a drink, think, and reflect.
Mark and Kevin ran their dogs on marks of various sorts, and then Mark set out a couple of bumpers for blind retrieves, set farther out than any of the marks, just about 20 degrees off where the middle mark had been. His Boykin, Piper did just find on the blind.
Then we got Cooper out, with the idea of doing the single + triple routine again. Again, he went first to the “go” bird on the left, then to the “memory” bird on the right, and then sort of forgot where the middle bird was. I whistled him to sit, which he did. Then I sent him toward the bird with a “Back” command. He went back, right past the bird. Argh! He got so far out that he scented the blind bumper, zoomed over sideways to grab it up, and then delivered the bumper. OK, so not Master level work.
I then had him retrieve that middle bird as if it were a blind. Which he got just fine. Silly boy.
Tooey came back home from having her puppies a couple of weeks ago, but last Thursday and today were the first opportunities we’ve had to do some real field training.
The last hunt test I took Tooey to, in May 2011, she failed because she would not hold onto the duck. She went out and got it, but instead of delivering it to hand, she dropped it 10 feet from the line. And then she would not pick it up.
I’ve been working with her in the kitchen and back yard, where she’s done pretty well holding onto our well-used, frozen-thawed-and refrozen ducks. But this week out in the training field, Tooey has sometimes dropped the bird despite that.
So this morning I turned Tooey over to Russ. Out of the four birds he ran her on, she dropped it only once, and then picked back it up and delivered it to hand.
Russ worked with a combination of enthusiastic praise (good Hold!) and reminders (Hold!). But I think the keys are his excellent timing, knowing when to remind and when to praise. He’s also the one who has taken her hunting for upland birds and ducks. And then there is also the fact that he is Russ, and I’m not.
There’s something about my relationship with Tooey that isn’t quite right. She thinks I am hers, rather than the other way around. I’m not sure why I think this is so, but the fact that she’ll hold onto a duck for Russ but not me is a clue.
It’s something to keep thinking about.
Let’s just get to the thrill-packed conclusion: Cooper and I failed today’s WCX test. And we totally failed this time, unlike Cooper’s almost pass last time.
But it wasn’t just Cooper. Working certificate tests, like hunt tests, are a team sport. And this time, both team members messed up big time.
As Cooper and I walked from the parking lot to the first holding blind, it became obvious that Cooper was wild and revved up. As you can see from the picture below, I even resorted to wrapping the leash around his muzzle to stop him from pulling me.
He waited in the holding blinds like I asked him to (without jumping on the blind or running out from behind it), but he was still pretty amped up, looking wildly around at every gunshot and whistle.
When it was our turn, we made our way to the line. I walked. Cooper, now off leash as required in the rule, essentially ran in circles around me, as he jumped out and I called him back, jumped out and was called back, and again, rinse, lather, repeat.
At the line, I took a few minutes to get him into heel position facing the spot where first bird would fall. I signalled to the judge that we were ready. The judge called for the bird. The bird was thrown, the gunshot went off, and so did Cooper.
In a hunting situation, this would be somewhat acceptable. But in the land series of a WCX test, the dog is supposed to wait for three birds to fall before being sent out to retrieve the first one.
When it became apparent that Cooper intended to retrieve that first bird, I called him back with a “Here!” command. He came back part way. The second bird was thrown, and Cooper went out about 10 more feet.
And that’s when I started my series of mistakes. I yelled, “Cooper! Here!”
To the non-hunt-tester reader, that sounds reasonable enough: get your dog’s attention with his name and call him back. But anyone who does hunt tests will immediately recognize the problem.
In hunt tests, the command to go out and retrieve is traditionally the dog’s name. And that’s how Cooper was trained. So what I essentially just told my dog to do was, “Go out! Come back!”
I was so discombobulated and so inexperienced, that I then made matters worse by repeating my mistake several times (I don’t know how many, but at least three, possibly four): “Cooper! Here!” And every time I did so, Cooper went out farther and then jumped back. Out and back, out and back.
Finally, Cooper couldn’t stand the contradiction any longer, and just went out and retrieved the second bird. All of this before the third bird was even thrown.
He brought that second bird back to me (he always brings back his birds), and at that point, the watching gallery (who were too far away to hear my mistakes), and the judges, and I, all knew that Cooper had failed. I just had to leash him up, say “Thank you, judges,” and walk off the test.
Everyone could see that Cooper was out of control, and later at lunch, I got a lot of very well-worn advice about how to get my dog under control and what I might be able to accomplish if I could just get that dog under control.
But it’s a team sport, and I am way more of a newbie than Cooper is. I’ve watched him in a lot of hunt tests, but I’ve only run him once.
Both of us need practice together, training us both on being steady and keeping ourselves under control.
Even with the failure, there were some nice things about that test:
Cooper picked the most difficult bird to go out and retrieve. That second bird was the farthest away, and the dog had to run over some up-and-down terrain in moderately heavy cover to get there. Even with all the jumping around, he marked that bird exactly, ran straight out to it, picked it up, and brought it back.
And I am grateful that my dog actually wants to go out and retrieve birds. I watched some other dogs at that test who didn’t want to go out, or couldn’t find their bird, or who objected to picking up a bird once it was found. Cooper doesn’t have any of those problems.
Another nice thing was watching Cooper’s half-siblings run the test: Riki and Emmy are also Nova puppies. Riki passed his WCX today. He’s got all the talent Cooper has and an accomplished handler. Emmy ran the WC test and failed, probably because she’d never run for Russ before, or even worked with him before. Even so, it was wonderful to watch her lovely line manners and her ability to mark and locate her birds.
Here’s a picture of the sibs:
Posted in dog behavior, dog training, hunting / hunt training, Stanegate Second Thoughts, tagged Irish Water Spaniels, IWS, learning to hunt, Mr Rainier Sporting Spaniel Association, spaniel hunt tests on April 16, 2012 | Leave a Comment »
Back in January, Russ wrote about taking Tooey upland hunting. He mentioned when he came back that the lightbulb really seemed to have flipped on in Tooey’s head — there are birds out in those fields that must be flushed and retrieved!
Little did I realize the significance of what lay behind his words.
Yesterday we took Cooper and Miss Tooey out to to a spaniel training day with the Mt. Rainier Sporting Spaniel Association. Every one was eager for the work: the people to get ready for upcoming spaniel hunt tests and the dogs to find birds ASAP.
Knowing that Tooey particularly likes chukars, I’d gone out on Saturday to buy a few. Saturday afternoon and over Saturday night, I kept the chukars in nice comfy cages in the garage. All afternoon, all evening, and most of early Sunday morning, Tooey kept telling us, “Hey! There are chukars out there. Let’s go see the chukars. Now. Right now. I want to go see the chukars out there.”
And then, on the ride up to the training grounds, she did her best to keep a constant eye on those chukars. While Cooper and Scarlett* napped, Tooey stayed awake and watched those chukars.
That all amped her up, but we made her wait. And that combination probably explains why my arm and shoulder are sore now.
Tooey has generally been pretty gentle on the leash. Even when in hot pursuit of a squirrel, she manages to moderate her forward movement before reaching the end of the leash. So much easier on the arm and shoulder than Cooper is.
But when I got Tooey out to the practice hunt test course yesterday, she lost her mind and I almost got pulled over. What Tooey saw was just about unbelieveable: other dogs flushing and retrieving birds, and Russ out there with them doing the gunning. Without her.
We were supposed to wait our turn somewhat near the course. But I had to get us away from there. So close to the course, I could not make her sit for anymore than 1 second at a time. And every time a gun went off, she was at the end of the leash, and both of us were 6 feet closer.
So instead of just trying to make her sit, I changed my tactic. Every time she pulled me toward the course, I turned around and dragged her farther in the opposite direction. We got all the way up a small hill about 100 yards away before she could sit quietly.
Eventually, it was Tooey’s turn. And she did great at the hunting. The gunners planted 2 dead birds close to the beginning of the course to give her confidence that birds were indeed out there. She found both of those quickly and retrieved them to hand.
Farther along the course, she also trapped two more chukars, grabbing them before they could get off the ground. Those were also retrieved to hand, alive.
Then, toward the end of the course, she flushed up a bird, which the gunner shot. She marked the fall, ran to go get it, and then brought that bird to hand, too.
That was the end of Tooey’s turn, but she was ready to keep going. Unlike Cooper, who tired himself out during his turn with a lot of running around, Tooey did a nice even zig-zag, back and forth across the course. And she did it at a moderate pace, too, kind of a fast trot. That makes for a more casual time hunting, when you don’t have to rush after your dog or worry that he’s going to flush birds too far ahead and out of gun range. (Take note, Cooper!)
Tooey’s puppies are due around May 7th, so I don’t know how much more hunting practice she’ll get in the next several months. But she remembered well enough from January to April. I imagine she won’t forget for the next time, either, no matter how long away it is.
Now we just need to work on steady.
*Scarlett is a Boykin Spaniel who is our friend Norm’s hunting partner
Posted in dog training, Obedience/Rally, Realta Rosario Cooper, tagged Irish Water Spaniels, IWS, Mt Hood Keeshond Club obedience trial, Novice A Obedience, Obedience Novice A, what it costs to get an AKC CD title on March 18, 2012 | 13 Comments »
Today, the day I had lost hope for finally arrived. Cooper qualified for his third Novice A Obedience trial, earning him the Companion Dog (CD) title from the AKC. (He earned his first leg last August, and the second leg yesterday.)
When I called called Tammy to tell her the good news, we chatted a bit, and then she asked, “So was it worth it?”
Was it worth it? In the throes of happy emotion, the only possible answer was, of course, “Yes!” It has taken more than a year, a lot of help, and every-day effort to get this title. It’s also taken a many more failures than successes, and a lot of frustration, some tears, and the shoulders of friends to cry on. You can’t spend all that, and not think it’s worth it.
Unless you’re crazy — and believe me, that thought has crossed my mind. (And Cooper’s, too, wondering, what in the heck are we doing? There are no ducks in here…)
But I had a goal: I wanted the All-Around IWS award that is given by the Irish Water Spaniel Club of America to dogs who have earned a show championship (CH), a retriever hunt test title (JH or better), and an Obedience title (CD or better). We got the JH in 2010, the CH in 2011, and 2012 was the year I hoped for the CD.
When I reported Tammy’s question to Russ, his mind went to the resources we spent to earn this title. (Of course it did — he pays the bills.) Here are the round numbers we came up with (your mileage may vary):
- Obedience classes for a year: $700
- Private lessons: $280
- Practice space rental: $50
- Obedience practice matches: $160
- Obedience trial entry fees: $300
- gas to get to classes, lessons, matches, and trials: $700
- homemade liver treats and chicken jerky: $40
- homemade tug toy: 2 hours, some heavy duty camo cloth, and a plastic bottle
- time: countless hours, every day
- new clothes: none (I permanently borrowed Russ’ photography vest, which now smells of liver treats)
- 1 visit to the emergency room and etc.: $23,000
But there have been a lot of benefits, too, beyond the CD title:
- new friends in the Obedience world who have opened their homes, expertise, and practice spaces to me
- new connections with people who do both Obedience and field work
- the occasion to be regularly humbled by and proud of my curly brown boy
- the opportunity to constantly re-evaluate goals, expectations, advice, priorities, hopes, and reality
- the good fortune to have something outside of work to strive for and achieve
- the understanding that you can (eventually) attain successes with the dog that you have
- a new appreciation of what others have achieved before me
- the conviction that Tooey will be a LOT easier to work with (even as I write that, I’m thinking: we’ll see… I’ll probably learn a bunch of lessons with her, too)
Cooper and I need help with the Long Sit and Long Down. Last Saturday at the Obedience trail in Albany, Oregon, Cooper would have (barely) qualified if he had just stayed down. But at 2:40 in the Long Down, he got up and walked calmly to me.
He’s done this at his last 4 trials. Which is why I did not go back to try it again on Sunday — I didn’t want to give him a chance to practice getting up again.
What is weird is that at all of the recent matches we’ve been to, he has stayed down for the entire 3 minutes. And yesterday in the park, he stayed down even when another dog was coming up to sniff him. (I called Cooper out of that down as soon as I could see what the other dog was going to do.)
Something is happening at shows. I think it’s partly his nerves. Possibly something with my nerves. And the fact that he’s gotten up at almost the exact same time in each of the 4 trials tells me he has a show clock in his head.
Maybe it’s history that set that clock. At his second trial last August (in which he did qualify), another dog got up, went over to Cooper, and sniffed him. The dog was friendly and non-confrontational, but this was unexpected. And good-boy Cooper stayed down.
But then the handler ran up to both dogs, gesturing wildly and talking loudly at her dog. That did it, and Cooper got up. Fortunately for that trial, the judge decided the interference was unfair, and gave Cooper an opportunity to do the long down again, with just him and me in the ring.
But unfortunately for the long run, in every trial since then, Cooper has gotten up early.
I’m not sure what to do. We will keep working on his attention to me and on my handling errors, but that’s not going to solve this particular problem. And this is the problem that is stopping us from qualifying.
Posted in dog shows / conformation, dog training, Obedience/Rally, Realta Rosario Cooper, tagged classical conditioning, dog shows, dog training, Irish Water Spaniels, IWS, mental preparation on January 21, 2012 | 2 Comments »
Almost one year ago today, at the Rose City Classic dog show, Cooper got his show championship. And that’s the last time I spent any time near a regular conformation ring. (I did show Cooper at the IWSCOPS specialty show in August.)
Today, even though the sun was out, our field training group was flooded out of its training grounds, so Russ and I decided to go to watch the Irish Water Spaniels at this year’s Rose City Classic. We left the dogs at home, hopped in the car, and drove the few miles over to the Expo Center.
About half way there, the area around my solar plexus got tight, I found it harder to breathe, and my stomach started to churn.
This went on for a few minutes until I realized, “Hey! I’m feeling nervous. Why am I nervous? I’m not showing any dogs in this show.”
I guess that I have been nervous driving to dog shows for a long time, ever since I started showing my dogs. So some part of me has made this dog show = nervousness into an automatic connection, one that I seem to have no control over.
It’s like watching Tooey start to drool when I start getting out the field training bumpers. She often gets treats when she retrieves those bumpers, and some part of her brain has made the connection bumpers = salivation.
We’ve both been classically conditioned.
I am beginning to realize that if I’m going to keep showing my dogs at dog shows, I had better deal with this. It’s understandable to be nervous when there is something to be nervous about. But when I start reacting for no reason based in reality, well, that needs some attention.
I think it’s connected to the high rate of failure at dog shows. Conformation shows are the worst at this — only one dog and one bitch can get points toward their championship — everyone else loses. I lost a lot — it took more than three years of regular showing for Cooper to get his championship.
And for Obedience, the problem has been me. Every dog who passes the trial, earns a leg toward the title. But the dog and handler have to be trained and ready to pass. I’ve been eager for Cooper to earn his CD title in Obedience (for a lot of reasons), and so I started showing him as soon as I thought he remotely had a chance — as it turns out, before he was ready. Resulting also in a high rate of failure.
So mostly my experiences with dog shows have been uncomfortable, linking a strong desire to succeed and a fear of failure, with the regular experience of failure.
So. What to do?
I am taking some steps. I haven’t shown Cooper in Obedience for quite awhile. And all that time, we’ve been taking classes, going to private lessons, attending matches, and practicing at home. Am doing my best to make sure we are prepared when we go next time.
But I am puzzled as to what to do with that extra layer of nervousness that appears to affect me without reason. What to do with that nervous feeling that arrives just because I am driving to a dog show. It’s got to be a mental game of some kind, but what, I don’t know.
Perhaps you do.
Posted in dog training, hunting / hunt training, life with dog, Realta Rosario Cooper, Stanegate Second Thoughts, tagged dog training, hunt training, Irish Water Spaniels, IWS, obedience training, teaching attention on January 15, 2012 | Leave a Comment »
Most of this morning we watched frozen precipitation. It ranged from tiny particles, to fat flakes, to hail pounding on the roof.
But then we noticed sunshine. Odd… Hmmm… better go training now.
We worked on
- a repeat of yesterday’s long V-blind, but in a new location for Cooper,
- a couple of 100-yard blinds for Tooey,
- a “Hold” practice for Tooey
- an honor for Cooper while watching Tooey go off for her blinds, and
- paying attention to the handler for Cooper
This paying attention is hard for Cooper when it comes to toys. For about a week, we’ve been working on a new rule: Cooper has to look at his handler before the handler will throw a toy.
Usually Cooper is so focused on the toy, or whatever else he’s distracted by, that he doesn’t even really know his person is there. This does not work well in Obedience, particularly during heeling, when the dog has to be paying attention to the handler so that the dog stays in correct heel position, no matter where the handler goes. So if we can convince Cooper that very good things happen when he looks at his handler, we are hoping that he will actually want to pay attention to his handler. This would, in theory, make correcting his tendency to get distracted during heeling much easier.
But you know, teaching a new thing can be dangerous. Students “forget” things they’ve long known while they are learning new things. This is normal, and it happens to people and dogs. Eventually, the new thing becomes integrated and the old things come back.
In particular, I’m hoping that teaching attention will not mess up his marking ability. Marking is crucial to fieldwork, during which he’s supposed to be looking out so he can “mark” where birds fall. We may have to re-introduce the “Find your mark” command, which tells him to look out and around for birds. He’s never really needed that command because he’s always been looking out without being told to.
So we got in about 1/2 hour of training. Then we noticed that the sky was getting suddenly darker, and that all the other people and their dogs had gone.
Hmmm… better leave now. And just as we got the dogs back in their crates and the bumpers and chuck-it put away, the hail started up again, pummeling the car and dancing off the windshield.