Sunday, August 17, 2014

Back to Basics

One thing that really frustrates me about myself is that I let my criteria slide.  Often.  For almost every behavior that I would like my dogs to do.  This has to change.  While I certainly do not mean for it to be so, it has to be completely confusing for my dogs.  It is bad enough that I let my criteria slide at a trial, but I do it in training as well.  Especially agility.  Especially Molly's contact behaviors.

And the major problem with Molly's contact behaviors is that even I had never made a solid decision on what I wanted her to do.  "Hit the yellow" is not a good enough guideline.  It is not that simple.  I am firmly settling on wanting a 2 on / 2 off behavior.  All dogs, but I feel like Molly especially, need to know very clearly what is desired of them.  To me, a 2o/2o behavior is a very specific behavior, and specific is good for Molly.  This is a thing that I feel like we can accomplish with the equipment and space that I have available.  A thing that I feel like we can translate to actual contact equipment, without actually having those things in our own backyard to practice on.  (Vince is understandably reluctant to have an Aframe for our yard, even though he said he would build one!)

We are having fun practicing 2o/2o all over the house and outside the house on different sets of stairs, with me on the right or left side.  Molly is doing quite a bit of coming down the stairs, nose touching the target and then bouncing her rear legs off.  No cookie.  I am almost glad to see this, because it makes me feel like, "Ah!  Something to work through!"  I'm not sure if it makes any sense why that seems like a positive in my mind, but it does.  Almost like, "If we can work together to stop that bouncing, it will help Molly perform a better contact behavior."

(And thankfully Molly is happy to work for her kibble meals, being that she is on a diet and all!)

Another area that I do not hold my criteria that is completely embarrassing to me is Molly's release with toys.  I allow Molly to give at least three or four additional tugs or shakes until she gives a jaw shuddering and reluctant release for her toy.  It is kind of embarrassing in agility class because I know that I should have a higher standard.  That is another thing that I am becoming more firm about.  We can pair it with the 2x2 training since I reward Molly with a toy for that.  I pull her toy to my leg and say "Give."  It takes absolutely all of my strength to prevent her from self rewarding and continuing to tug.  Molly is an extremely strong dog.  As soon as she lets go I whip the toy away from her and let her get it again as a reward.  I have always done that, but from now on I absolutely cannot permit her to continue to tug if I want an instant toy release.

I wish I had been a more sensible and competent trainer back when I started agility training.  I wish that I had a better understanding of almost everything and had insisted on a better and consistent foundation for Molly.  But I did not and none of that is her fault.  I can only own up to my own faults and try to rework what I can and see where it gets us.  I miss agility trials so much with my girl, but not a second goes by that I am not grateful that we are taking this time off.  

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