Perri and I started a new session of Rally Intermediate class last night, with one change: Molly will be joining us this time around! I have committed to the idea that I would like to earn Molly's ARCH, and I think that I have mentioned that before on this blog, but I want to do it with a well trained and confident dog rather than just by squeaking by. And that means stepping up Molly's training from "working rally behaviors ringside at agility trials" to actual commitment to at-home training of obedience behaviors, as well as getting Molly into different environments where we can work on proofing and confidence.
Rally class is great for this. I don't have to set my own course up, and Molly gets to walk amongst signs and cones on a training center floor - these are all good things and things that we don't have access to. Also, our knowledgeable instructor is watching me and pointing out where I need improvement!
I have to start by saying that between being exhausted from work and juggling two dogs, I was a total mess last night. I had cut hot dogs as treats, I kept dropping them. I kept lurching off into heeling and mumbling "heel" to my dog after I had already stepped off. I wasn't communicating clearly with either dog. I wasn't comfortable with handling the treats and delivering them while juggling the clicker. I was reaching for treats before clicking or before a behavior was completed and that was pulling my dog (especially Molly!) out of position. My self dictated homework is to do a few training sessions without my dogs where I walk around on a pretend rally course with my training pouch. I need to focus on crisp cues, properly timed treat delivery ... and never ever again will I have cut up slippery hot dogs for a rally class!
The dogs, as ever, were not a problem. I expected a whole lot of lagging out of Molly, and I did get some, but I also got a bit of actual heeling out of her. My focus with Molly has lately been on that crucial moment where we step off into heeling - she usually just sits there. (even when I do manage to cue her properly.) We have been working a lot on making coming with me rewarding and it showed and I am so proud of her. Another area I was proud of were Molly's recall to fronts - where I used to have to call Molly with a verbal command as well as point to front, and even then she might lay down - last night I was able to keep my hands at my side and recall her with a verbal cue only and get a nice square sit! The last recall of the night she did decide that recall meant to recall to a crooked front with a nose touch to my right hand - give me my reward! That needs work, but it was awfully cute and Molly-like. Other kudos to my girl are that she was only mildly chattery at the beginning of class and was very focused on me when we were working. I wasn't sure if Molly's first rally class would be spent actually playing rally, or just focusing on calm behavior without ever even entering the ring. Not bad for my girl's first ever rally class!
As for Perri I was very happy with her too. We have been working hard on her heeling and it showed last night, majorly. I think this is the first time ever in a rally class where Perri did not lag tremendously and ignore me to sniff on the ground - wow. And I was not watching closely, but it certainly felt like we had many moments of that happy, focused heads up feet flying heeling that I so desire. I was trying not to stare at Perri and I was trying to walk at a normal clip (in comparison to my normal robotic, shoulder turning limp....because what dog on earth could figure that out?) Fast Pace still leaves room for improvement, of course. Perri showed a whole lot of improvement on her "downs". She doesn't drop down quickly, no and I still have to point to the floor - but we are moving away from me actually having to crouch down with her.
So, some good and bad on both girls - lots to work on (hello Left Pivots!), but they definitely out performed me last night and that is for sure!