We have a Rally show this Sunday for Perri and I am really looking forwards to it! She needs one more leg for her Rally Novice title and if she gets that she can move up and we will see how she does in Rally Advanced. I have never desired to get a RAE title with Ein, but that is a goal that I think would be good for Perri. AKC Rally is easier in rules and sign requirements than WC Rally in my opinion, but the show environment is far more distracting and stress inducing. And that is where we fall apart in Obedience. Working towards her RA and RE and, later on, her RAE will give us endless opportunities to work in environments that are hard for Perri to work in, all the while doing shorter heeling lengths and fun behaviors in between - and I can verbally support her with all the praise that I like. Something to think about...
I have continued Perri's object pick up shaping with much success. Last night after nearly two weeks I wanted to work with the dumbbell again. But first we did a little warm up with her braided tug toy that I got for Christmas. I laid it out the same as I would the dumbbell and rewarded her the same. Great! She was wiling to work and work with the dumbbell, but I put it away before she wanted to stop.
We did some other things, like jumping through the hula hoop (this is a great warm up or training break up for Perri if she gets overwhelmed!) and I revisited where we left off with Silvia Trkman's method for teaching heeling. Well, where we really are is that when I rotate to the left, Perri is to keep moving with me and stay in heel position. We started this in...May? June? Back then, Perri could only do this for literal minutes at a time or less. It stressed her out and shut her down so much. When we started on the perch she would enjoy it for a small amount of time and then go away to sniff. I was frustrated. We made slow progress off of the perch and onto a piece of paper and then weaned away the paper. I say "revisit" but I have never really stopped. It's just that I have continued our "minutes at a time" training sessions on that, since that was all that Perri could handle for months on end. We do our "spins" and she gets clicks and we keep it happy and short.
But last night I wanted to starting working towards a pivot and some backwards heeling with her. We need to start doing more than spinning in a circle! If Perri sits when we are pivoting, that has been it. If I try to raise criteria and wait for her to think to move back into heel position, she shuts down. So where am I going with this? Last night we just worked and worked on it. And she didn't give up! She didn't run off and sniff too much but when she did we played with the dumbbell or the hoop and then we moved right back to our work. Perri always moves her head into her turn when she moves with me so I thought that if she did that in the slightest while sitting I would click it. That was the key! After I clicked the first head turn she did it more and more and I have a dog now who is beginning to understand that moving out of a sit and back to my leg will get her treats! It wasn't even this little break through that was the most exciting. It was that this was an obvious moment for me where I could clearly see: Perri's confidence is growing. Yes we were at home. Yes we were in the little office. But even a few months ago, Perri absolutely could not do any of this in even the "safest" area of the house without shutting down after a minute or two.
I took a little video towards the end of our training. It's not perfect and I missed some click opportunities due to being in that "I am working on this thing and only this thing" mentality - I know better than that! When she swings back to my leg and is too far forward and self corrected, I wish so much that I had clicked that. What a good girl! She forgives me. Always! I am still a so new to clicker training and I have so much room for improvement. I am also not yet pivoting, obviously. More exaggerated movements while she gets the idea of what type of movement I am looking for.